State plans $2.5m more for dredging Storm Lake

Monday, January 29, 2007

Storm Lake was named as a high-priority lake for restoration and water-quality efforts in an Iowa Department of Natural Resources plan released this week. $2.5 million in state funding has been projected to further dredging efforts through 2009.

Thirty-five lakes were identified as priorities out of 127 that are considered suitable for restoration.

Only four lakes in northwest Iowa were included in the priority list - the others are Lower Dar Lake in Dickinson County, Five Island Lake in Palo Alto County, and Blackhawk Lake in Sac County.

The priorities were set by ranking lakes based on socio-economic, water quality and watershed factors. The list of 35 will serve as the "starting point for consideration of potential lake restoration projects," DNR officials said.

The 2006 Infrastructure Bill appropriated $8.6 million toward lake restoration and requires the DNR to use a science-based approach to achieving water quality improvements.

The priority list will be reviewed in 2007, and each year following, to make certain whether individual lakes will remain as top priority.

The work of the Lake Preservation Association's work on behalf of Storm Lake dredging and water quality figures into the priority that the DNR has placed on the lake.

The DNR report indicates that 10 more years of dredging is needed to fully realize water quality goals for Storm Lake. This would require $6 million more in state funding, along with a similar amount from local sources, according to DNR calculations.

The DNR is recommending a budget with an additional $500,000 of funding in fiscal 2007, $1 million in 2008 plus $1 million more in federal or other revenues, and $1 million in 2009. The 2009 money is partially earmarked for a dredge containment site. Only 17 lakes statewide are scheduled to receive funding for fiscal 2007, and only three lakes including Storm Lake have received specific individual state appropriations.

"2006 was a milestone year of intensified focus on Iowa's lakes," DNR officials said in the report, which is being reflected on future funding attitudes. "Iowans value water quality and desire safe, healthy lakes that provide a full complement of aesthetic, ecological and recreations benefits."

Storm Lake is Iowa's 4th largest natural lake at 3,150 acres. Prior to current dredging beginning in 2001-02, the lake had last been dredged in 1962, with most of the gains in the 1960s dredged areas being lost to siltation. Storm Lake had been placed on the impaired waters list in 1998 for turbidity. The current dredging and watershed efforts will result in the lake being removed from that list, according to the DNR report. When complete in a decade, the lake can be expected to be an average depth of 13 feet with significant improvements in water clarity and quality.

Total cost to restore the lake and watershed to meet all goals is projected at over $31 million.

The DNR report indicates that Storm Lake is among the most popular Iowa lakes for recreation use, with an estimated 168,800 people using the lake area each year for swimming, fishing, boating, camping and picnics.

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