Letter to the Editor

High water crisis still looming

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The current thinking of experts in the state regarding flood plains, flood control, the artificial lakes, flood plain insurance, future water levels, etc. etc. makes one point very clear: The interference by some Des Moines elected officials, Des Moines lawyers, local politicos and others who thought they were being helpful in pushing a choice of "elevated culverts" as a "solution" last spring was, in my opinion, and that of many others, another disaster for the long term health of the Iowa Great Lakes! So, also, for lakes' property owners -- both commercial and residential.

I do believe that many of the trees which came down on buildings and boats this last weekend were felled as a result of continuing high water/wave action and shoreline erosion, caused by the 230th road blockage of continuing, regular, outflow of excess water. This is especially true because of the DNR's documented dramatic increase in area non-porous surfaces since '93 with NO increase in outlet capacity from the Okobojis past the 230th Avenue blockade.

If the IGLA or the OPA, or any others of the citizens' associations really want to make a difference, as much of their promotional material suggests, one or all should NOW lead in an area campaign to put a full-fledged bridge in. Why waste the money to do all of these other Mickey-Mouse false solutions that will not really solve either the current or longer term needs of the area. How would the Okoboji Projective Association vote on this? Do OPA members really understand the issue? Does the IGLA really understand the issue?

Let's apply legitimate passion and courage to go after what is right for the lakes NOW. I am photographing the uprooted trees all along the lakeshore. This continual high water is eroding away the beach base not just at Gull Point/Pikes Point, but in hundreds of visible locations all around the lakes. Can we afford to keep losing beach sand and our precious tree line? Or, can we afford to continue dumping tons of black earth into the lakes with each rainfall? It is time to wake up and enact responsible solutions. Let's support and accomplish what the experts say is right for us! No bait and switch anymore. It may be that now with all of the re-definitions of flood plains going on in the state that people who live on any of the IGL in low lying areas will face higher costs in mortgages -- directly related to what may now constitute a flood-plain property. That, of course, is directly related to the constant elevated water level of all of the IGL (except Spirit Lake). Can the Supervisors be taught about this peril? If mortgage rates go up dramatically because of the constant, unmitigated threat of floods, there could follow a howl like none heard before! Let's get the right solution -- as recommended clearly by the experts -- the Core and the DNR in their 1997 study. That's the kind of "big thinking" that the OPA, the IGLA, and the other associations ought be fighting for this lakes area -- and winning.

R. Smith Schuneman


Author, High Water on the Okobojis and Spirit Lake, 1993

Professor, retired, University of Minnesota School of Journalism