After being informed of the numbers of people and dollars at Three Mile Lake Monday, the Union County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a $25,000 donation to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for improvements at the lake.
Department of Natural Resources Andy Jansen said the lake restoration project will reduce sedimentation and construction of new sediment detention basins and improvements to a structure that is linked to gully erosion. Other work includes silt basins, shoreline work and enhancement to jetties and fish habitat. The motivation is to keep the lake a popular place for those who use it.
Jansen said surveys show at least 9,000 people fish at the lake a year and some come from farther than 70 miles. The users of the lake contribute a total $1.5 million to the economy. Jansen said 3 Mile is a “destination” lake.
“We have a gem in this county,” said Supervisor Rick Friday.
The DNR is paying for 75% of the cost for the lake work. The goal is to get area municipalities to fund the remaining amount. In the past, Union County Conservation has used grant money for lake work. The project is scheduled to be completed in March 2024, but Jansen said cooperation from and between Creston Waterworks and Southern Iowa Rural Water Association will be needed should the DNR need to lower water level in the lake to make the work easier.
Neighboring Three Mile and 12 Mile lakes are familiar with construction projects.
Creston Waterworks is in the middle of improving water-intake structure at 12 Mile Lake which is threatening the progress of construction of Southern Iowa Rural Water’s treatment plant east of Creston along U.S. Highway 34.
Three Mile Lake is being used as the main source of water for Creston Waterworks. Creston also provides treated water for Southern Iowa Rural Water Association until its treatment plant is operational, which is expected in early 2024. Jansen said it is possible water levels at Three Mile will need to be lowered for lake restoration work which may force water to be drawn from 12 Mile for Creston Waterworks and SIRWA.
Creston Waterworks and SIRWA are in a stalemate for a mutual aid agreement for supplying each other water after SIRWA’s plant is operational. SIRWA has emphasized an agreement based on specific, emergency situations. Lake restoration which lowers water levels is included in their list of emergencies. SIRWA has expressed an interest in negotiating raw water in the agreement, but Creston Waterworks only wants to negotiate treated water.
The water use permits for both entities expire this month but according to state officials there is no urgency to have a new agreement, as the state does not want to get involved with the negotiations. The state will honor the details of the existing permit indefinitely.
In late 2021, Creston Waterworks approved a $2.97 million bid to replace the 40-year-old infrastructure at 12 Mile. The work started in early 2022 with a completion date by the end of 2022, but supply-chain issues since with various construction material companies have slowed the progress of the work.
Creston Waterworks General Manager Steve Guthrie told his board this month he was optimistic the pace of the work will increase next month.
In fall 2021, SIRWA began construction of its own water treatment plant east of Creston along U.S. Highway 34. Southern Iowa Rural Water has been paying for water for its customers from Creston Waterworks. Southern Iowa Rural Water Association Managers Brenda Standley and Jeff Rice said their construction companies have not provided specific dates for when Creston Water must have its work at 12 Mile complete, but the two fear SIRWA will have additional construction-related penalties if dates are not met.
“I hope we can all get along,” Jansen said.
In other county news...
County conservation director Doug Jones was recognized for his 25 years of service.
Michelle West is a new staff member in the auditor’s office.