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Weather Warm Up Stalling Long-Awaited Fort Dodge Dam Removal

Weather Warm Up Stalling Long-Awaited Fort Dodge Dam Removal
Weather Warm Up Stalling Long-Awaited Fort Dodge Dam Removal

FORT DODGE, Iowa -- It is not uncommon to see ice jams on Iowa's waterways when the temperature spikes like it did over the weekend. Fortunately, the National Weather Service`s river observations map is not not showing any flooding due to the warm up, but there is one ice jam causing issues in Fort Dodge.

Just over 8 months ago, 26-year-old Alex Dencklau was killed when kayaking on the Des Moines River in Fort Dodge when his boat overturned near the hydroelectric dam.

"We've had several incidents over the years and then the one we had over Memorial Day was probably just a catalyst as the city looked at what to do with the dams," said Fort Dodge Fire Chief Steve Hergenreter.

That tragedy was one of the many reasons the City of Fort Dodge is now removing that hydroelectric dam as well as the little dam on the Des Moines River.

"Environmentally, it's a really good move, and of course from a safety aspect it's huge," said Tony Trotter, Fort Dodge's city engineer.

Trotter says after years of discussion and dealing with permits, demolition finally started less than two weeks ago on the little dam.

"Winter is the premier time to do the dam removal. Typically, flows in the river are just a fraction of what they are in the spring and summer and even fall," said Trotter.

But the quick thaw is driving another wrench into the plans, with ice jams forming between the two dams.

"They have estimated the water has artificially increased about two and a half feet, so that creates several different problems for us," said Trotter.

The contractor cannot get into the river with water that high. This is putting some of the demolition on hold until the ice jam breaks up, making an already long wait, just a little longer.

"From our standpoint [and] the fire department's standpoint, we will be glad to see them go away. The same hazard they have to citizens, we have the same risk. When we have to put a rescuer in the water, they are very high risk," said Hergenreter.

The city is paying for the removal of the dams through municipal bonds. They say they will leave in place the frame of one gate of the hydroelectric dam after meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers and the state historic preservation office back in December.