Buffalo Creek Dam
Buffalo Creek Dam
Dam Mitigation march 2016
Dam, March 2016
Dam, March 2016

Dam, March 2016
Dam Mitigation, March 2016

Mitigation project underway at Buffalo Creek dam

Posted:3/16/2016 Linn

Changes are underway at the Buffalo Creek dam site near Coggon, as steps are being taken to partially remove the dam and install rock arch rapids.  The dam has provided pleasant scenery over the years for locals and visitors to the area, however the decision to make changes followed a lengthy process keeping safety and ecological benefits in mind.   The question for many has been “why take down a beautiful feature to the Buffalo Creek area?”. There have been some misconceptions about the dam, which was built in 1965 a few years after the opening of Buffalo Creek Park.    The dam was built to create an impoundment, or confined body of water, for recreational boating and fishing above the dam.  Over the years, the impoundment has silted in and no longer serves its original purpose.   The dam was not designed to hold water for flood control. In fact, areas that are downstream from the dam site are not at a greater or lesser risk to flooding because of the dam structure or after its removal.                 Lowhead dams, such as the one at Buffalo Creek, are being recognized across the country as safety hazards and there is now statewide interest in removal.   The recirculating water current that is present at the base of the Buffalo Creek dam would make it difficult to rescue any individuals that may inadvertently go over the dam structure or get caught in the current.   Legally, the only public access to the area was by going underneath the railroad tracks about 140 feet north of the structure.  The walkway bridge, which use to overlook the dam, was built for maintenance purposes only.  Railroad property had to be crossed to access this bridge.  This walkway was also not meeting current safety standards.    Not only is safety an issue, but Buffalo Creek is listed on Iowa’s impaired waterways, as the current dam does not allow for passage of fish or other animals. Linn County Conservation held public meetings in the area in 2014, which included feedback such as “do nothing” or “remove the dam”, to “create something new”.   The Linn County Conservation Board voted for partial dam removal with rock arch rapids.  Late last fall, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers issued a Nationwide Permit 27 to allow for bids on the project.  Peterson Contractor, Inc. from Reinbeck was awarded the $689,585 contract and mitigation work began the first week in March.  Funding is provided from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Dam Mitigation Program, DNR Fish Habitat Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and local sources.   7-10 feet of the dam will be removed over  time. The plan is to remove 2.5 feet now, and one foot  phased in over the next 3 to 5 years.  It will not be a continuous removal, but will be dependent on water levels that push the silt deposits downstream.  Any activities or amenities at nearby Buffalo Creek Park will not be affected. The project will benefit the ecological health of the currently impaired Buffalo Creek.  The end result will also provide for additional recreational opportunities for paddlers and anglers, especially those who want to start their adventure at Buffalo Creek Park and make their way into Coggon.