Know your Dam: During Reconstruction in 2012

Know your Dam: During Reconstruction in 2012

The following is an interim report written in April 2012 giving background about the then construction project to reconstruct the Papakeechie Lake dam.

2003: State DNR to regulate dams, private and public A small lake association learns to deal with multiple government agencies.

Back in 2003, the legislature empowered and required the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to regulate the safety of dams in the state, private and public. So said the headline. After a survey and some analysis, dams were classified as to potential risk and condition. Papakeechie Lake dam was classified high hazard and cited for required improvements.

Papakeechie Lake is privately owned by the association of lake property owners, the Papakeechie Protective Association, and that means that any repairs or improvements have to be funded from private money collected for the purpose.

A dialogue between the association, the IDNR and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was started. Even though the dam had stood for nearly a century the association was determined to address any safety concerns. An engineering firm, Earth Exploration, Inc. (EEI), was hired by the association to determine the best course to be taken to address the concerns of the agencies involved. Initially, this meant that the lake level was lowered at the request of the IDNR to minimize stress on the dam.

Past president Ron Schug worked many hours navigating between the agencies and the engineering firm. Earth core samples were taken and surveys done to allow Earth Exploration to perform a hydrology study and determine how the dam needed to be improved. Design documentation was generated by the engineering firm and presented to IDNR and the USACE for review and approval.

Fast forward to the summer of 2011 and we find that, after navigating the various government agencies, the new design for dam improvements created by EEI has been approved by IDNR, USACE and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. All three agencies issued permits for the construction to begin.

That was great but while the association had collected substantial funds from members through a special assessment it still had only a fraction of what would be necessary. The assessment was calculated to go on for years and had proven to be very successful: virtually 100% compliance was experienced. But even with this success it would be some years before the project could be completed, unless another way was found to fund it. Since the lake and dam are private property, no public funds are available. A few small grants and donations have been received but were not nearly enough. A faster way to obtain funding was necessary.

The association decided to form two committees to accomplish the project: a Finance Committee chaired by association president Steve Herendeen and a Project Committee chaired by Larry Clough, a member of the board of directors. The two groups worked in parallel to obtain financing for the project and to select a contractor to do the work.

Over the winter of 2011/2012, accurate estimates of the project were obtained, financing was provided by Lake City Bank (LCB) of Warsaw, IN, the construction contract was awarded to Northern Indiana Construction of Mishawaka, IN and the final permit from Soil and Water Conservation of Kosciusko County was obtained. The funding was in the form of a line of credit much like any construction loan. This way the construction could take place and the loan repaid over the ensuing years with money generated from the special assessment of association members. “This is a perfect time to borrow money with the interest rates being so low,” said Steve Herendeen, association president.

Finally, in March 2012 construction was started. This project will end up costing the association approximately $1 million, a large amount for an association of homeowners. “We heard things like, why mess with a perfectly good dam? And for a dam that has withstood the test of time for 99 years, maybe that makes a certain amount of sense. But since we had to address certain problems identified by the experts, the association has decided to do it by the book,” said Larry Clough, Project Director for the association.

The Papakeechie Protective Association expects that the project will be completed before the end of 2012. “The project construction has actually started earlier than expected because of the unusually warm and dry weather. If the weather holds, we hope to continue to improve our schedule. Who knows? Maybe we can finish early,” said Clough.

“The board of directors is made up of many talented individuals. Whenever possible we have tapped individuals within the association for help. Because of this, the cost of this project, though large, is smaller than if we had to hire this entire project out. I am privileged to be able to work with such a competent group of individuals,” sums up Herendeen.

It has taken a lot of work on the part of many individuals and sacrifice from the members, in terms of the expense and the lowered water level, but the Papakeechie Protective Association and its members are looking forward to the day when the project is completed, the dam is safe for years to come and the lake is back to its former condition.

Larry Clough April 2012

Know Your Dam: Hydrology and Characteristics