River Currents

by Free Speech on June 18, 2009

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Lodi, Wisconsin
by Gary Engberg
©2009 Gary Engberg Outdoors

What a Great Comeback!

Lake Delton after the June '08 dam breach

Lake Delton after the June '08 dam breach

Last Tuesday, June 9th marked the first anniversary of the tragedy that drained Lake Delton and rocked this tourist dependent community. The scenario that caused this disaster would be difficult if not impossible to have happen again. The dam at Lake Delton didn’t fail, but a combination of many forces caused a section of shoreline to collapse into the Wisconsin River.

Here is what happened; first, there was extremely heavy rainfall that saturated the area’s sandy soil. Second, the piece of land that collapsed was between the flooded lake, which created high pressure on one side and the rushing waters of the Wisconsin River, which was only 700 yards away and lower in elevation than Lake Delton. Third, the heavy precipitation saturated the soil causing it to weigh much more than usual while at the same time the rain water and rising lake was moving over and through the sandy shoreline. This movement caused channels and pores that reduced the soil’s ability to remain in place and stay stable. Lastly, the increasing forces of gravity from the weight of the saturated soil and the decreasing resistance of the weakened sand combined with the other forces causing this section of shoreline and the waters of Lake Delton to wash into the Wisconsin River. The breach of Lake Delton destroyed five homes and emptied this lake which had help support the area’s booming tourist industry for decades.

Later in the week of the disaster, inventor and President/CEO Lake Resources – IronClads Soft Baits, Ben Hobbins, called outdoor communicator, Dan Small, asking him to help and co-found a project to restore the then empty Lake Delton. The very next week, the Lake Delton Fisheries Restoration Project (LDFRP) Task Force was formed consisting of Hobbins, Small, retired DNR Fisheries Biologist and Lake Delton Village Trustee Gordon Priegel, and then DNR Fisheries Biologist, Tim Larson. Larson later retired and was replaced by DNR biologist, Scot Stewart in January of 2009.

Ben Hobbins carries an aquarium filled with walleye fingerlings for the initial restocking at Lake Delton.

Ben Hobbins carries an aquarium filled with walleye fingerlings for the initial restocking at Lake Delton.

During the summer of 2008, a web site was established (www.restorelakedeltonfisheries.com) to provide information on the tragedy and to give people a place to send donations, a bank account was opened, Fish Biologist Larson developed a fish stocking and carp eradication plan, Larson and Priegel designed plans for rock reefs on the then dry lake bed, and the first donations began coming in for the fisheries restoration project.

The embankment and roadway of Highway A was reconstructed and completed in the fall of 2008 along with the rock reefs and dam. The highway reopened along with a new boat launching ramp at Adams Street and two older ramps were rebuilt. Dell Creek, which flows through the lake, was eradicated for carp, and finally the dam’s gates are closed and the refilling of Lake Delton began with a fundraising and public awareness campaign locally and throughout the state.

This spring, Lake Delton was stocked with 9 million minnows as a forage base for the fish that are going to be stocked in the future. Gollon Bait and Fish Hatchery of Dodgeville made a major donation of the forage fingerlings valued at $20,000.00. Lake Delton reached “full pool” in May of this year just before the busy season.

The culmination of all this hard work came to fruition this past Tuesday with the Welcome Back Lake Delton Celebration which included a boat parade, Governor’s Doyle’s Proclamation, the release of 9,000 walleye fingerlings by DNR Secretary Matt Frank, and a free performance of the Tommy Bartlett Show.

Many companies, corporations, and individuals made donations and contributions which made this project a great success. Major contributors of cash, services, merchandise, and materials included; Propex, Inc. (reef endowment), Walleyes for Tomorrow, Lake Delton Sportsman’s Club, Moose Jaw Pizza and Brewing Company, Lake Delton Public Works, Horn Plastics, Lake Delton Fire Department, Allen Steele, Steve Droegkamp, C & H Inc. of Reedsburg, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., Walleyes North America, Wilderness Resorts, Rhapsody Hotel Group, Gollon Bait and Fish Farm, Mercury Marine, Crestliner Boat Group, Chula Vista Resorts, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison Fishing Expo, and the many more individuals who are too numerous to list.

Ben Hobbins had a dream to help restore this beautiful lake and with the help of Dan Small and many others boats are now buzzing around the lake and the fishing future looks bright for this prime Wisconsin tourist destination. Last Tuesday Hobbins said, “The restoration of Lake Delton is nearly complete with today’s celebration. As visitors return to the area, the Lake Delton tourist industry will regain its strength just as the lake regained its water. We envision the fishery restoration as a three-year process. Thanks to the efforts of many donors and volunteers, we are on track to exceed our goal of $300,000 in material and cash donations.” Thank you Ben for helping bring this great natural resource back to life!

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