DNR approval needed for dam’s fate


The Indiana Department of Natural Resources did not budge from its rules concerning repairs to the Huntingburg Conservation Club’s dam.

County Engineer Brent Wendholt expected that response, although he was hoping it would be different, he told the Dubois County Commissioners Monday.

“If it’s under 20 feet, we can do what we want,” Wendholt said. “If it’s over 20 feet tall, it must be done to DNR specifications.”

Wendholt and conservation club members met with DNR officials Sept. 21 to talk about the now-closed dam and lake. DNR said that if the dam comes under DNR’s jurisdiction, a realistic cost to fix it would be between $400,000 and $500,000; if the dam is not under DNR rules, it could cost $150,000 to fix.

But DNR does not know for sure the actual height of the dam as it stands now. The state agency has recorded its height at different times over the years. It originally had on its record that it was 18 feet tall. Another time, the dam was measured at 23 feet tall. Another measurement shows it being just over 20 feet tall, Wendholt said.

So, Wendholt suggested hiring a firm to survey and measure the dam.

“Until that is done, we’re at a standstill,” Wendholt said. “We can’t do anything to the road because DNR considers it alteration to the dam. Right now we can’t do anything without DNR approval.”

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 dam and lake were built in 1954 and have not been significantly changed in that time, although state and federal rules have changed.

If a new survey determines the dam to be less than 20 feet tall, the conservation club can move forward with its idea for repairs — 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.

Wendholt added that if the dam is measured to be over the 20-foot limit by a little bit, “we could cut it some to get it under. But if it’s 25 feet, we can’t do that.”

The commissioners told Wendholt to get quotes for an firm to do the survey work. That cost can be included in the county’s contribution to whatever repairs are made to the dam. County officials are hoping the repairs can be made so that the county road does not have to be moved.

Wendholt said the conservation club has asked if the county could add rock to help stabilize the dam. The commissioners directed Wendholt to talk to the club about helping to cover that cost.

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