Every dam has its day, but those days appear to be coming to an end for the Quaker Mill Dam.
Seventeen citizens crowded into the Delaware County board of supervisors’ office Jan. 13 to listen to Nate Hoogeven, the coordinator of river programs for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), as he presented plans for restoring the Maquoketa River at the aging dam. At least some of those people were interested in seeing how the project could reduce flooding at their homes upstream of the dam.
Delaware County engineer Anthony Bardgett said that when the pond was full and the dike was in place, water frequently backed up onto property belonging to Sunset Beach landowners.
Honoring the dam’s history is among the DNR’s plans.
“This dam has a lot of history to it,” said Hoogeven. “My hope is that we find a respectful way of retiring this dam to present its history to future generations.”
The dam was constructed in the 1920s to generate electricity, but it collected so much sediment that it quit working in the middle of the century.
Hoogeven said the dam is eligible for listing as a historical site and that a plaque at the site or maybe a book about the dam could preserve its memory.
He said the goals of the restoration project are to restore the flow of the river beneath the Quaker Mill bridge, and to get the river to flow under an appropriately designed bridge.
Currently, the Maquoketa River is being redirected under the Honey Creek bridge, which was only designed to carry Honey Creek.
The project will reduce flooding for homes along the reservoir formed by the dam, stabilize and restore the stream channel, restore upstream and downstream habitats and improve fishing and recreation.
In order to accomplish that, the river needs to be realigned to flow under the bridge, and the channel bed will be lowered four feet. Additionally, the riverbanks will be reshaped, vegetation will be restored and an overflow shallow will be constructed at the dike.
Hoogeven expects to be able to re-use excavated material when building slopes to the river. This repurposing will save the cost of trucking it away from the site.
The cost of the proposed restoration is approximately $500,000, which would be paid 50 percent by a $252,000 DNR grant and 50 percent by the county.
“The (county) money is already budgeted though my department,” said Bardgett. “If we had to replace that bridge it would cost approximately $1 million.”
Hoogeven said the DNR plans to have the final permitted design in six to eight weeks, and that construction could begin late summer or early fall.