Association struggles with plan to dredge Venetian Canal

Property owners along the Venetian Canal on the northwest portion of Clear Lake are hopeful they will receive approval from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to proceed with self-funding the dredging of the canal.

Mike Schweizer, a representative of the homeowners association for Venetian Canal residents, attended a public meeting with the DNR Oct. 16, to share the frustrations that group has experienced for more than three years.

“In 1957 the canal was opened to the lake and nothing has been done since.  When it was dug it was seven-foot deep.  There’s three-foot of silt now,” Schweizer told DNR Director Chuck Gipp and area DNR officers.  Schweizer acknowledged that because the canal is considered private (although it is public water), the dredging project does not qualify for public funding.  Therefore, 43 residents have committed to funding the $215,000 project.

Although they are not asking for money, the association needs a place to put the sludge and that’s where they are hoping the DNR can help.

Schweizer said they have had no luck finding a nearby farmer who will agree to have the sludge pumped to their land.  They are hoping the McIntosh Woods land immediately west of the Venetian Canal can be a location for bags of fill to be placed for drainage.  Once the silt has drained, the bags of dirt would be removed and disposed of elsewhere.

The DNR had offered the land it used to pump dredge from the little lake, approximately three miles south of Ventura.

“We need a close location or we can’t afford to do it.  We need to pump 6,600 civic yards of silt.  There’s no way we can afford to pump a distance like that,” Schweizer told Gipp.  “It’s not a viable option.”

Use of the McIntosh site is complicated by the fact that the land was paid for with federal money and therefore must adhere to restrictions of the federal government and the Pittman-Robertson Act in particular.  The wildlife restoration act limits use of its land to compatible usage.

After learning more about the specifics of the dredging plan, Gipp said his office could take a closer look at the proposal and hoped to find a way to help the project move forward.

Schweizer reported this week that he and other association members had met with local DNR officer T.J. Herrick after the meeting and are still pursuing use of a few acres of the McIntosh Woods property.  The association is making plans to laser the demographics of the land to be able to assure the DNR that no dirt would need to be disturbed to prepare the site for the bags of silt to drain.  After the bags are de-watered, the dry silt will be removed.

Schweizer added he is thankful for the support of Senator Amanda Ragan (D-Mason City) and State Representative and Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer (R-Clear Lake).  Ragan attended the meeting with the DNR, along with State Representative Sharon Steckman (D-Mason City).  Upmeyer was unable to attend the meeting, but sent a representative.

“We got the representatives involved when we were at a standstill after three years of trying to get this done.  We have been getting different answers for three years.  We weren’t even notified that this topic would be discussed at the meeting until we read it in the Mirror-Reporter,” said Schweizer.

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