The Creston Parks and Recreation Board met with a representative of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Lake Restoration Program to discuss the ongoing McKinley Lake Restoration Project Tuesday evening in the Creston Restored Depot.
The board presented the final report of phase one of the McKinley Lake Restoration Study prepared by Fyra Engineering to Iowa DNR Lake Restoration project manager George Antoniou and DNR biologist Andy Jansen in hopes of achieving a partnership with the project.
“We want McKinley back at what it was so we can use it again,” said parks and rec board member John Kawa.
Legacy of McKinley
Constructed in 1874, McKinley Lake was used as a Creston water supply for business and industrial uses, with winter ice harvested for both local and regional use. The city purchased the lake and surrounding area in 1901 and named the area after President William McKinley.
Following the construction of Summit Lake two miles away, McKinley Lake was drained and used as pasture until Creston citizens successfully voted to fill and reopen the lake to public use in 1919. Over the next 100 years, sedimentation, excess nutrients and algal blooms have impacted the usability of the lake.
As was the case in 1919, the issue once again rests in the hands of voters. The board said the project relies on passage of a bond to raise the necessary funds for completion. The bond was on the ballot last November but lost by 45 votes. The board intends to introduce the measure again this election season, and Kawa said he believes this time will be different.
“Last year there were bonds for the pool, the library and the McKinley project,” said Kawa. “We spoke with the others to ensure that our project will be the only one on the ballot this year. I think Creston is going to do this in November.”
Reviving a lake
The accumulation of sediment has caused the bed of the lake to gradually become more shallow. Additionally, poor water clarity, algal blooms and a persistent carp population add extra layers to the problem Kawa said the board has been working toward for over 15 years.
“People know what we have been trying to do all these years,” said Kawa.
The board wants the lake to be in a position where people can camp, fish, boat and potentially swim. Projects have been improving the park itself in preparation for the project with additions of new amenities such as the walking trail. Additional efforts have been made in the management of the watershed, including a multi-faceted restoration effort that focused on Hurley Creek — the primary tributary stream that drains in the lake.
Overpopulation of carp has created one primary issue. The species of disrupting plant life with their feeding habits and releasing phosphorous, thus further exasperating the algal population of McKinley Lake. Jansen said the carp would need removed from the lake and potentially Hurley Creek, and new fisheries would need to be put in place to revitalize the fishing scene in the lake.
“There’s blue gill and a lot of carp but a very low bass population,” said Jansen.
The largest step required to rejuvenate the lake is to dredge the lake bed. Dredging is the process of cleaning the bed by scraping out the sediment, vegetation and rubble in the lake. This would address the main concerns with depth and algal population. Specific zones of the lake needing dredged have been marked by Fyra Engineering. The concept would remove 295,000 cubic yards of unconsolidated sediment from the bottom of the lake, providing a depth of at least 10 feet in 25% of the lake’s surface area. This figure does not include dredging associated with shoreline deepening.
The dredging and sediment handling make up a majority of the $3.9 million price tag, totalling an estimate of $3.2 million. The bond is asking for $2 million and would span 10 years.
Lake restoration program
Antoniou, who has been project manager for the lake restoration program since 2007, said he was impressed with the thoroughness of the board and the steps they had taken on their own before approaching the DNR. Anotniou’s biggest suggestion was for the board to hold a public hearing that involves the DNR and everyone involved with the project so far.
“For us... to be involved, there would be a lot better comfort level if we had this conversation one time in more of a public setting,” said Antoniou. “We can make sure to answer any questions that people may be asking about the goals you are trying to meet in the next few years.”
If McKinley Lake is selected by the program, the DNR could assist the project with engineering assistance and cost sharing. Area lakes have been part of this program before, notably the Lake of Three Fires in Taylor County.
Antoniou said the next step for the DNR would be to issue a letter of support that would state what the DNR’s commitment to the project entails. No actions were taken during the meeting, but Antoniou said the details would come at a later date.