Club offers airport soil from lake, dam repairs


HUNTINGBURG — The Huntingburg Conservation Club is still working on getting its lake and the nearby county road open for use again.

The club has offered to give the Huntingburg Airport soil that will be removed from the lake to make repairs. The Dubois County Airport Authority board talked about the offer at its Monday evening meeting.

“We are going to get the lake fixed,” Club President Bernie Main said Monday. “I don’t think the county cares about which way we do it or which company we use (for the work). And there’s been some other things that have come to light that we are looking at.”

Heavy rains that hit the area in late April and early May 2017 exposed a problem with the dam’s drainage. Because there was too much rain for the dam to handle, the water washed away some of the bank around the dam and underneath County Road 100 West. For safety reasons, the lake and the section of County Road 100 West that includes the dam were closed indefinitely until repairs can be made.

The repairs must be up to state standards since the lake and dam are taller than 20 feet, and in previous talks, those costs were estimated to be as much as $500,000.

But since those earlier talks, which happened last fall and this spring, the club has hired an engineer for the project, who has been working with the state to get plans organized. And the club is still raising money for the project.

“With the airport deal, it would speed that process along,” Main said. “And we’re giving them something they need. So it’s a win-win for both of us.”

As part of the repairs, about 125,000 cubic yards of soil will be removed from the lake. The club needs to get rid of the dirt, Curtis Brown of Indianapolis engineering firm Woolpert Inc. told the airport board. The airport’s upcoming runway extension project needs about 200,000 cubic yards of soil.

“So we would be a little more than halfway there, with the free dirt,” Brown said. “That’s about a half million dollars worth of soil that you would not have to purchase. So it would be a very significant partnership there.”

The airport authority was very receptive to the idea. As part of the deal, Brown explained, the airport would pay the cost to get the soil and bring it to the airport, which would cost about $500,000.

The club will drain the lake for the repairs and dredge it out at the time, to make the lake six feet deeper, Main explained.

“It’s a win-win for all of us,” he said. “The county wants to save the road. We want to get our dam repaired. And the airport needs the dirt.”

The conservation club will still build the lake, dam and spillway to state standards. Exactly how that is done is still being discussed. It’s possible that if the airport takes the dirt and pays for removing it and hauling it away, the company that is doing the work may be tapped to make the repairs, Main explained. But all that is still being discussed.

“So that (repair) cost might change for the club as negotiations are made,” he said.

He doesn’t yet know how much it will cost to make the repairs. “It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We know that the state has to test the dirt. If it tests as a good sample, we’ll proceed forward from that.”

Brown doubts the soil is contaminated. But, he told the airport authority, the soil should be tested first to make sure that it’s environmentally suitable for the runway project. The board authorized Woolpert to seek quotes to get the testing done and gave Authority President Jim Hunsicker permission to sign a contract for the testing, so long as the cost does not exceed $7,000.

Since the problem with the dam was discovered, the lake level was lowered to take pressure off the dam. And that has affected the club, especially since it limits how members and visitors use the lake. So getting the problem fixed is a priority for the club.

“This is not going to be a start-tomorrow-type deal. But obviously, we’d like to get started as soon as we can,” Main said. “Our club depends on the use of our lake. It’s been hard for us to charge for people camping out there because the lake is so low.”

Other projects are also in the works at the club’s site. Club members will plant natural grass and wildflowers as part of the Indiana Department of Agriculture’s pollination project.

The club will burn off 6 to 7 acres of land behind the club and plant natural grass and wildflowers to encourage bees and butterflies to pollinate; the land is currently grass that is kept mowed. The club is also looking at planting some wildflowers and grass near the campground as well. The seed for the project will come from the state, Main said.

“It will be good for the environment, giving a place for the bees to pollinate, which they need all the help they can get,” he said. “It will make it efficient for us because we won’t have to mow it. And it’s going to look nice, with the different wildflowers and native grass.”

The work will be done in the fall, and the first crop of wildflowers will bloom next spring or summer, Main said.

He also said the club is talking to Quail Unlimited about repopulating the area with quail. “We’re wanting to do some different things to get some wildlife over there,” he said.

“It’s called the Huntingburg Conservation Club for a reason,” he added. “We’re going to try to get the area to the situation where we can promote some of that. I think everyone will see a big difference in the next few years, if we can get everything going forward. It will be a bonus for everybody.”

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