Conservation club presents plan for lake, dam fix


The Huntingburg Conservation Club is hoping it can fix the problems at its now-closed lake at a cheaper cost than previously expected.

But the plan must be approved by the state.

“If we all work together and if everyone is on board with it,” club board member Bernie Main told the Dubois County Commissioners Monday, “your blessing would help us to put that to the (Indiana Department of Natural Resources) in a way that wold be more acceptable for them.”

Heavy rains that hit the area in late April and early May 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 the road. For safety reasons, the lake and the section of County Road 100 West that includes the dam were closed indefinitely.

The club’s plan is to repair the spillway, Main told the commissioners. That would include temporarily dropping the lake level, building a temporary levy in front of the dam, moving the culvert from the center to the north end of the dam and building a larger spillway for the natural water flow. The cost of excavation work for the project is estimated at between $60,000 and $70,000, which is a lot cheaper than the original repairs estimate of $400,000 to $500,000.

“The dam did not actually breach,” Main said. “The emergency spillway did its job. It went over the top of the emergency spillway which is directly over our main culvert, and it washed out the back side of the spillway.”

But doing this, “We wouldn’t have to drop the level of the dam, we wouldn’t have to drop the road,” Main said. “It’s probably going to save the county more in road repairs. And it’s going to save us considerably in the repairs of the dam.”

County Engineer Brent Wendholt said that he believes this plan would work. “What he is presenting, I have no problem with it, because that’s what I would like to do anyway. But DNR has to approve all this,” he said. “He’s got a good plan. But it’s ultimately DNR’s decision.”

The dam and lake were built in 1954 and have not been significantly changed in that time. But the rules and guidelines for lakes and dams have changed. And since the lake and dam are taller than 20 feet, the repairs must meet state and federal guidelines, which are under DNR.

Main and other club members have made numerous calls to DNR, but have not yet reached anyone, he said. Wendholt said he finally talked to someone at DNR and found out that the agency has a lot of matters it is dealing with already.

“DNR has a lot on their plate, so they are not going to force us to do anything right now,” he said. “This is low priority right now.” But, Wendholt added, the dam cannot be put back in the same condition it was before the flooding.

The commissioners were supportive of the plan as well, since it would mean that the county road could stay at its current level. And this also shows that the club is actively working on the issue, Wendholt said.

“This at least gives us a plan,” he said. “Now we have something to present if someone asks what’s going on. They are making progress. That’s what I was hoping to see.”

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