Creston City Council was asked Tuesday by Iowa Department of Natural Resources representatives to financially contribute to a Three Mile Lake restoration project planned for later this year.
Council did not take any action on the request.
George Antoniou, from the DNR’s lake restoration office, suggested a $50,000 contribution. Southern Iowa Rural Water and Union County have also been contacted about donating. Antoniou said there is a consensus of approval from SIRWA and the county has already been awarded an eligible grant for $50,000.
“We are still in a little bit of a funding gap,” Antoniou said about the estimated $4.5 million project. He said the project has also been awarded a federal $500,000 water infrastructure grant.
“It would go a long way,” he said about the funding request showing how local entities also are interested.
He said state legislature budgets $8.5 million a year for lake projects.
The attraction Three Mile Lake has was a strong reason why the DNR chose the lake for improvements. Work will include water quality, fish habitat and certain sections of shoreline. The schedule is to approve bids in March and have the work start in May. Antoniou said the completion date is March 2024, which is probably longer than needed. He said there is no existing problem with water quality. Some preliminary work has already been completed.
Antoniou said there will need to be some cooperation since water levels will need to be lowered for the work, but “try to be efficient as we can” since Three Mile is the water source for Creston Waterworks and SIRWA in addition to the recreational activities.
“Three Mile for us as a program is one we always kept on our radar for public benefit,” Antoniou said. Studies by the DNR show Union County lakes Three Mile, 12 Mile and Green Valley “pop out” as a regional draw based on the number of people visiting and length of stay.
“The goal is to protect the lake,” he said.
Andy Jansen, a DNR representative from Ringgold County, said a 2016 survey showed the lakes had 175,000 visitors that year spending a cumulative $16.7 million.
“Of that, anglers had 35,000 hours of fishing and spending an average of $142.”
During COVID, he said the lake’s popularity spiked since outdoor recreation was the least threatening activity to spreading the virus.
“Go around these lakes and you see boat trailers from all over. You see a lot of Black Hawk, Dubuque and northeast Iowa. These folks are passing by lakes to come,” he said.