The Dayton Town Board has asked the Department of Natural Resources to order Waupaca County to transfer the long-contested dam to the Little Hope Lake District.
By a vote of 2-1, the board passed a five-point resolution at a special meeting Tuesday, March 18.
The resolution opposed the county’s petition to remove the dam and requested a hearing before the DNR.
It also requested that the DNR assist the lake district in preparing a petition to transfer the dam and provide specifications and cost estimates to the lake district.
In addition to the dam, the town board’s resolution seeks to transfer associated property and water rights, as well as rights to restore a culvert under County Road K.
Dayton Town Chairman Chris Klein said the resolution was needed to ensure that the DNR held a public hearing before giving the county a permit to remove the dam permanently.
Litigation blocks negotiations
“I’ve tried to discuss this with the County Board since last October,” Klein said, noting that due to pending litigation, he has been unable to speak about the issue directly with board members.
The Little Hope dam is owned by Waupaca County and managed by the Parks and Recreation Department.
After an inspection in the summer of 2012, the DNR ordered the county to either remove or replace the dam.
The county Parks and Recreation Committee voted in August 2013 to remove the dam.
After a series of procedural errors resulted in several failed attempts to hold an annual meeting, the Little Hope Lake District was unable to set a budget in 2013.
Jeff Siewert, the county’s corporation counsel, questioned the legality of the Little Hope Lake District in November 2013. He is seeking a summary judgment regarding the lake district’s legal status. That case is still pending.
Klein said his inability to negotiate with the county means Dayton will have no input on the dam’s future unless the DNR holds a public hearing.
“Even those who are opposed to replacing the dam should want the opportunity for public input,” Klein said.
Town Supervisor Jim Peglow cast the sole vote against the resolution.
“Most of it is very subjective, rather than objective,” Peglow said.
The three-page resolution asserts that the dam’s removal threatens the health of Dayton residents due to exposure to blastomycosis, damages fish and water fowl habitat in the area, damages the tourism value of the area, and affects local property values.
Peglow recommended “scratching everything on the resolution and just saying that we have concerns that we want to have engineering studies look at the groundwater tables prior to doing any more work on the removal of the dam.”
Peglow said he was concerned with how the permanent removal of the dam would affect the local groundwater table and the monitoring wells that have been placed around the abandoned landfill located south of the Little Hope area.
But he took issue with other issues raised in the resolution.
“Damage to the fish habitat? The water fowl habitat? I would have to argue with that. I’m not a biologist, but I hunt a lot and fish a lot. There’s lots of geese down there. More than I’ve seen in the past,” Peglow said.
“I think I can state that I have a better view of the water fowl both in the area and of how many people have fished that river since the drawdown happened, compared to people that were fishing before. I can’t say that they were all successful, but I can tell you that they were fishing regularly. And I have not seen a single person fish that river since the drawdown,” Klein said.
“I personally have a dog with blastomycosis,” Klein added. “That disease has been reported in our area but I can tell you that I have had a dozen dogs over the last 25 years and none of them ever got blastomycosis. The mill pond is exposed, it’s drawn down and six months later, I know that Rose’s (Dorow, a neighor) dog has blastomycosis and my dog got it.”
Klein said he could not prove a direct correlation between his dog’s blastomycosis and the drawdown, “but it certainly is a concern.”
Klein said he also was concerned that the drawdown may contribute to further contamination of the groundwater due to the nearby abandoned landfill.
Peglow said the only concern for the majority of Dayton residents was the impact of the drawdown on the landfill’s well monitoring system. He said the other issues raised in the resolution did not pertain to the town, but only to the residents in the lake district.
He also said blastomycosis was common throughout the area, including on his own property.
Shorter resolution defeated
Peglow made a motion to remove everything from the resolution except the reference to concerns about how the dam’s removal would impact groundwater levels and monitoring wells.
He also moved to strike the request to transfer the dam and associated rights from the county to the lake district.
Supervisor Glen Newsome seconded the motion in order to discuss it.
“Is there a timeline for this?” Newsome asked.
“Yes. The DNR requires responses to their notification within 30 days of the date of publication,” Klein said.
“I would rather see this go to a public information hearing,” Newsome said. “I would like to move forward, even if it’s in a slow but orderly fashion to give every opportunity for this thing to be seen from every different side.”
Newsome then joined Klein in voting against Peglow’s motion striking most of the resolution’s language and in favor of the original resolution.