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Feb 26

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Oswego Dam

     A little background and more details regarding the purchase of the property adjacent to the Oswego dam which controls the water level of our beloved Lakes Tippecanoe/Oswego/James.

     Back in the early 1960’s, LTPO addressed the issue its members were having with the fluctuating water level of God’s Lake in that every year the “waterfront” seemed to vary from what would now be 15-20 feet from the average shoreline. It was determined that the problem could never be completely solved, as in the title of an old movie “A River Runs Through It,” and thus the immediate upstream water flowing into the lake comes from all the lakes and rivers in three counties covering over 73,000 acres of land upstream from us. However, the lake level could be controlled to a great degree by building a dam at the outflow point of our lake, at the southwest end of Oswego Lake where the Tippecanoe Lakes chain evolves into the Tippecanoe River.

     After much study by the leaders of LTPO in conjunction with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers, a site was chosen for the dam; the design for the dam was drafted; funds were raised and, under the leadership of LTPO’s president Sterling Stayer, the dam was built, with a dedication ceremony and official “grand opening” being held on October 14, 1964. A commemorative bronze plaque was installed on the dam marking the occasion and remains there 52 years later.

     The dam has served us well over the last 52 years, creating a more constant lake level and avoiding most of the ebb and flow problems of a large river and stream-fed natural lake such as ours. It also laid the ground work for an unprecedented agreement between LTPO and the State of Indiana setting specific lake levels (as determined by the official number of feet above sea level of the lake) at which, in times of high water, the lake will be restricted to “idle speed only” or even “no motorized boating” as well as at what lake level those restrictions will be lifted. The criteria used in establishing these specific levels was based upon at which point the high waters will be likely to cause damage to property and at which point the high waters will be likely to create a risk of injury to human life, respectively.

     About 20 years ago, however, the dam suffered a serious “blow out” which caused the dam to be ineffective, and risked a “complete failure.” At that time the DNR provided what is termed “a temporary patch expected to last three to five years”. The repairs required DNR access over private property. Fortunately, our long time dam keeper Terry Frank was generous in offering his lawn for the needed access, but more than once, his septic system was damaged by the equipment used in making the repairs, which LTPO paid to fix.

     The DNR now acknowledges the “temporary” repair of the dam has well outlived the expected life expectancy of the repairs, and that the entire dam needs to be replaced. However, there is NO point of access sufficient for all the equipment. In working with LTPO, the DNR ‘s Deputy Director of the Division of Water; the Project Manager/Hydraulic Engineer for the project; and other DNR staff members have met at the lake on multiple occasions with a team of LTPO board members to discuss the issues. The Deputy Director advised our team that since the dam is considered to be for the stabilization of lake levels, and thus is not, technically, a “flood control” dam, it is not the policy of the DNR to pay for access to repair or replace the dam; that it has never done so; that it will not exercise eminent domain; that if access is not provided to repair/replace the dam, it will “walk away from the project”.

     Fortunately, BOD member Connie Anthony learned of the intentions of the owners to sell of the four small “summer cabins” along the south side of the river, and that the property line extends along the entire shore from a point near the OswegoTippecanoe River bridge to well past the eastern edge of the dam site. Recognizing the importance of the site to the goals and mission of LTPO, Connie contacted other members of the LTPO BOD and recommended the Executive Committee address the issue of a possible purchase of the land for the purpose of providing a permanent access easement to the DNR for the repair/replacement and maintenance of the dam. As a noted local realtor, Connie represented LTPO’s interests in negotiating the sale of the property and donated 100% of her share of the commission from the sellers LTPO. THANK YOU CONNIE!! The property was purchased by LTPO, but there is still much work to be done to protect our lake !!!

     The DNR indicates the priority for funding the dam replacement has now been greatly improved as a consequence of our intended donation of the easement, but there is still a considerable amount of the purchase price that remains to be funded before the access can actually be provided. That’s where you come in… Please consider a specific donation to our Land Acquisition Fund to help pay off the balance of the purchase price of the dam site so that if/when the state legislature approves distribution of funds for the replacement of the dam we will be able to immediately move forward to complete the project and avoid a possibly disastrous failure of the dam which could wreak terrible damage to our members by way of property damage, plunge in property value, and even possible personal injury. Your donation may be the best investment you have ever made by a dam sight.

 

It is not a matter of if the Tippy outflow dam will fail, it is a matter of when it will fail”,

Deputy Director, Indiana DNR, Division of Water

Permanent link to this article: http://ltpo.org/oswego-dam/