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Lake Geode restoration halted, finish date extended to 2020

May 4, 2019

DANVILLE, Iowa (AP) — The Lake Geode Watershed Project hit a significant snag last year in its effort to clean up the polluted water, pushing back construction’s expected completion date to spring of 2020.

The 174-acre lake was emptied in the fall of 2017 and has been dry ever since, barring the rain and snow melt that ebbs and flows with the changing seasons.

“The water has been an issue, obviously,” Caleb Waters, Lake Geode watershed coordinator, told The Hawk Eye. “Really beginning last fall with the rain and snow and ice and snow melt. The lake was partially filling with snow melt and rain.”

Waters and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources initially intended to complete the restoration project in March, giving the lake several months to a year to replenish itself. That goal came and went, with a new bid for dredging work extended to March 2020.

Once construction is finished, the lake still will take time to completely refill.

“Unfortunately, these weather events made it impossible for the contractor to complete the dredging and now the lake renovation is behind schedule,” Waters said in a post on the Lake Geode Watershed Project Facebook page, referencing “ice, snow, brutal temperatures and more snow.”

Heavy rain in the fall, Waters said, caused Lake Geode’s main tributary, Cedar Creek, to “run at full capacity” with more than 10,000 acres of watershed flowing into the upper end of the lake.

Stipulations of IDNR’s new bid include removing the remaining sediment, building an in-lake silt dam, armoring eroded shoreline, and installation of fishing jetties and underwater fish habitat, according to Waters.

Since lake restoration work began in January 2018, IDNR said recently in a press release, about 80,000 cubic yards of sediment was removed from the lake, with an additional 112,000 cubic yards remaining to be removed.

“Poor water quality has impacted the fish population and affected all water-based recreation at the lake,” said George Antoniou, IDNR lake restoration program coordinator, in a statement. “Implementation of water quality improvement practices in the watershed is currently underway.”

Because of high pH and bacteria levels caused by human and animal waste, fertilizer and sediment run-off, Lake Geode was put on the state’s impaired waters list.

In-lake restoration first was bid in December 2017 for about $3 million.

To control the amount of sediment building up in the lake, an in-lake silt dam will be built so in the event of heavy rain, clean water from the watershed will flow in and drop the sediment levels.

In addition to the watershed project, Lake Geode’s campgrounds also are under construction, with work expected to be complete this summer.

Work started in March 2018 with the removal of 63 trees infected by the pervasive emerald ash borer. All of the park’s previous 30-amp electrical sites for campers will be upgraded to 50 amps, and campsites will be widened for pull-through access and added privacy. New water lines are being added, too.

Once complete, 14 campsites will have full utility hook-ups and 52 will have electrical hook-ups.

Campground renovations are paid for through Lake Geode’s funds for capital projects.

Friends of Geode State Park also are working to renovate the concession stand at the beach.

Dave Smith, Friends of Geode president, said recently the nonprofit group had raised about $20,000 toward its $60,000 goal. They’ve held fundraising events, had a calendar printed and compiled a cookbook, both of which can be purchased at Natural Inspirations in downtown Burlington.

Last summer, Friends of Geode hosted its first Geode Challenge, a 5k, 10k and 10k “Ruck Run”, with about 80 participants.

“We’re thinking that might double this year,” said Smith of the participants, “and we’re really looking forward to having that again.”

The second annual Family Fun Day and Geode Challenge will take place June 22, with a 5k run, 7.5-mile run and 7.5-mile “Ruck Run.”

IDNR has agreed to supply roofing materials, while Friends and its volunteers provide the labor.

Once the $60,000 goal is met, Smith said, the group can apply for grants to make up remaining costs of the roughly $134,500 project.

The concession stand, vacant since the mid-1990s, will have new windows, refurbished electric, insulation and plumbing fixtures, places to sit inside and outside, and an updated interior. They plan to sell light food and drinks, in addition to camping supplies.

“It’s going to be a nice thing when we’re done,” Smith said.

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Information from: The Hawk Eye, http://www.thehawkeye.com