Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Dam Dilemma

Delhi Dam during July flood (Iowa State Patrol photo)
In my last post I mentioned the Delhi Dam which ruptured during recent flooding.  Whether or not to rebuild it (and how) has become somewhat of hot button issue here in Iowa.  The dam is owned and maintained by the Lake Delhi Recreation Association.  Homeowners on the lake paid dues to the association.   Since the dam was a privately owned structure, should taxpayer funds be used to rebuild it? 

Some citizens and politicians, like Governor Culver and U.S. Representative Bruce Braley, say yes.  On the day after the dam failed, Governor Culver assured, "We're going to throw everything we have at it, in terms of federal and state resources."  Others disagree.  Ed Failor Jr. of Iowans For Tax Relief said, "It isn't the obligation of taxpayers to alleviate risk from our society.  By having private ownership of that dam, they assumed risk."  I'm inclined to agree with the second camp. 

That's not to say that I don't think that Lake Delhi should be rebuilt.  I love Lake Delhi.  For all the talk of this being a "private" lake, it was very much a public asset.  I didn't own a cabin on the lake, yet I spent many hours fishing and pleasure boating with friends there in my youth. I frolicked at Freddy's Beach.   I dined at the Pizza Place and Camp-O.  I camped along its shores at Turtle Creek County Park.  I hope to do so again someday with my kids.  I just hope that the dam will be rebuilt in a responsible manner.  (My friend strandediniowa over at Between Two Rivers blog stole some of my thunder on this, but I'll soldier on.  His post, too, is worth a read.)

There are plans for a new dam to produce hydroelectricity.  It should be possible to find investors (a power company perhaps) to help finance such a project.  Granted it would take longer to scrape the money together and the Lake Association would have to be more creative than if "rich" Uncle Culver or Braley just whip out the taxpayer's money, but in the long run it would be better for everyone.

The lake is important to Delaware County.  So, if local voters decided to throw their own local tax money at this with a bond issue or something (if that's even possible) I think that might not be too bad.  At least it would localize the cost to those who most benefit from it.  If the state DNR lent some expertise to the project, I probably wouldn't lose much sleep.  Even if the state and local government do get involved somehow, the project definitely doesn't require Bruce Braley's sack of borrowed Chinese blood money. 

Braley said, "My job is to help identify and secure all potential federal resources to assist those individuals and businesses in the 1st District who are eligible to help recover from the recent flooding."  Bull crap!  According to the oath he swore before God, his job is to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States [and] bear true faith and allegiance to the same."  The Constitution doesn't give Congress authority to rebuild a privately-owned dam on an intrastate lake.

Small-town lawyer Ben Lange, who is challenging Braley for the First District seat, seems to get this.  In a statement, the Republican Lange expressed sympathy for flood victims but explained: "Based on the facts as I now understand them, I believe the repairs will require the state and local governments, working in concert with the private sector, to fix the Delhi dam. Despite the political pressure to reach an alternative conclusion, I simply do not believe the federal government should be involved with this local issue because it is a privately-owned dam on a recreational lake."

Lange continued, speaking of the fiscal ramifications of this and similar usurpation by Congress: "I was disappointed, but not surprised, to read Rep. Braley’s statement yesterday, in which he said that we need to spend federal money to bailout a private entity now, and 'then tough choices are going to have to be made.' I respectfully disagree with the Congressman; our nation has reached a point where tough choices need to be made now. Rep. Braley’s 'spend first, think later' approach to this issue is exactly what is wrong with Congress as a whole, and the kind of thinking that has gotten this country into the fiscal mess we are in today." 

I couldn't have said it better myself.  Props to Lange for taking the constitutional high road rather than the pandering political easy road on this issue.

Let's rebuild Lake Delhi.  But let's do it right; let's do it local.


  1. Sorry for the thunder stealing, but thanks for the props.

    You know, I think your publishing a longer post with some thoughtful insight is better than my snarky one liners.


  2. I hear that instead of re-bar, they're going to mix paper money with the cement at a 50-50 ratio, saying the fibers in the bills will act like fiberglass in holding the dam together.

    Besides, it comes from the government, so it's FREE MONEY.


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