DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Crews have begun draining four lakes that form part of the ecosystem at West Lake Park in north Davenport.
"Our lakes are on Iowa’s Impaired Waters list, primarily due to the sediment that comes into the lakes and the excess algae that we have," said Roger A. Kean, executive director for Scott County's Conservation Board. Scott County received about $4 million in funding from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to improve water quality at its lakes.
A park ranger on Monday morning accessed a fenced-in valve and let-down structure by Lake of the Hills, the largest lake at the park. A turn of the valve lifted up a gate valve deep underground, as the sound of rushing water could be heard flowing into a culvert underneath Interstate 280. The water eventually flows into Black Hawk Creek and the Mississippi River.
"So this valve goes down underneath the lake out in the middle of the lake," Kean explained.
"We can open it as much a we want to and let the water out and let the water drain as fast as we want, but we are required to only do about a foot a day on drop. That way we know there’s no impact on the creek below us, and it doesn’t cause any problems for the people who live along Black Hawk Creek."
Only Lake of the Hills has a valve and pipe running to the creek, so contractors set up pumps to drain the surrounding smaller lakes into Lake of the Hills.
"This pump here will pump 38,000 gallons per minute so we’re not quite sure how long it’s gonna take to drain all of them," Kean said. He estimated it would take about a month.
Recreational activities including swimming, fishing and boating would be minimally impacted -- until August 1.
"Fishing is still going on and we have what call liberalized fishing: People can catch and keep as much as they want, but that will end on August 1 as well, primarily due to the fact that the water level will get so low that it’s hard for people to get to the shoreline to be able to fish. And then our boat ramp aren’t accessible as well after the water level is down," he said.
The lakes won't be drained entirely, but the water level on Lake of the Hills is expected to drop 17 feet. At that point, the remaining fish population will be killed off. The lakes will be restocked with game fish at the end of the lake restoration project.
The lakes will be closed for the 2020 season and reopen in 2021. The entire lake restoration project will run about $5 million by the time it is finished, he said.
"We are gonna improve angler acess, redo the shoreline, improve our fishing piers and other small projects like that. You don’t get many opportunities when the lake is down, to do that work," he said, adding that the lakes will be restocked with game fish at the end of the entire project in 2021.
As for the water levels, he hoped for what many had lamented this spring.
"All this rain that we got this spring, we need that in the spring of 2021 and that’s what will fill the lake back again."