DES MOINES, IA – There wasn’t much to be happy about in a small town after a dam broke!
Residents of Delaware County were treated to a less than tasteful view on Monday. Acres of mud filled with dead fish filled what was once a peaceful nine-mile-long lake. A weekend dam break left their lakefront properties a little less majestic.
The Lake Delhi dam in Delaware County gave way under the rapidly rising Maquoketa River on Saturday, decimating the nine-mile-long lake and adjacent property values.
“The water’s gone, dead fish are laying there on the bottom – it’s a pretty nasty looking scene,” said Irv Janey of Marion, who owns a condominium on Lake Delhi. “It was a beautiful recreation area and to see it drained, it just makes you sick.”
Heavy rains last week forced the river to unprecedented levels, causing earthen portions of the dam to collapse and sending a torrent of water rushing downstream. The concrete section of the dam remained intact, but the swollen river damaged about half the 1,000 homes and cabins above it. The lake quickly emptied.
“We have over $100 million in homes on the lake and none of them are worth what they were when they had water in front of them,” said Jim Wiley, director of the Lake Delhi Recreation Association. “You have a home with a lake or a home with a mud flat.”
“What might have been a $500,000 house is probably worth only a quarter of what it once was.”
Property owners are holding out hope that the lake will be restored. It is up to the association to decide whether to rebuild the dam, which was built in 1927 to produce hydroelectricity. The lake is now used solely for recreation and the association members pay dues to maintain it.