No time to hold back on Lake Beulah Dam
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Worker Jack Delaney inspects Lake Beulah Dam, which is listed by the Wisconsin Department of Resources as a priority project for repairs. Photo by Terry Mayer.
TROY TOWNSHIP -- They don’t expect Mother Nature to wreak havoc in the short term. However, local, county and state officials have their eyes on preventing a perfect-storm situation with a long-term solution.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
The earthen outflow dam on Lake Beulah under County Highway J was built in the late 1800s to raise the level and form one contiguous body of water from the original Mill, Crooked and Long lakes. And the current configuration of the concrete spillway structure is believed to be about 90 years old.
Combine that with a lack of regular inspections and maintenance, and it’s easy to see why in January the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources rated it No. 5 in a priority list of 15 publicly owned dams across the state that need to be repaired, abandoned or removed.
Local land owners, the Lake Beulah Management District and Walworth County have agreed that the estimated $1.15 million reconstruction project is necessary and should be tackled in 2013 rather than waiting, especially considering the approximate $390,000 DNR grant may not be available again after the current budgetary window.
LBMD Chairman Dave Skotarzak moved to the area in 1972, so he knows how important the project is to residents.
“It’s a high-hazard dam, so it’s a safety issue,” Skotarzak said. “That’s what is paramount. Something needs to be done for the long haul, and most people would agree to that. The DNR doesn’t have funding available often, so we think it’s wise to use it, get the project done and do it right.”
Larry Price is the operations manager for the Walworth County Department of Public Works. The county, which completed reconstruction of the eastern-most, six-mile stretch of County J in 2011, owns and is responsible for maintenance of the highway and all land 33 feet from the centerline of the roadway on both sides. It will be responsible for the remaining cost of the work, which will come from unassigned monies in its general fund.
“It’s been deemed a high-hazard dam by the DNR, and the homes and area downstream (from the lake) could receive a lot of damage should something major happen to the dam,” Price said. “It’s an earthen dam, and the spillway is the major structure. If the lake levels went over the roadway or there was a breach, the effect could be catastrophic.”
For the complete story, see the July 15 print or e-edition of Walworth County Sunday.