Dredged Leota adds 'lake' to its name
Evansville's Lake Leota is starting to look like a lake again. Kyle Geissler reports.
EVANSVILLE Lake Leota now holds true to its name.
With Allen Creek partially refilling the dredged area last week, the centerpiece of the downtown park is taking on the look of a lake again. For more than three years, the drained lakebed grew weeds and bushes taller than a person and looked more like a marshy field.
All of that is gone after contractors, working 24 hours a day, restored and dredged the lake this winter. The majority of the work is complete, but the dredged dirt deposited on adjacent farmland needs to be more evenly spread, City Administrator Dan Wietecha said.
“There’s been a steady stream of people going up to look at what’s going on,” he said.
Richard Krueger of Janesville was one of many people driving and walking around the park Tuesday afternoon to check out the project’s results.
“It’s a lot better than what it was,” said Krueger, a former Evansville resident who recalled swimming in the lake decades ago.
Ice was forming Tuesday on the lake, which is not full. About 3 or 4 feet of water will be added after the city finishes maintenance and repair work on the dam in spring, Wietecha said.
“If people look at it and see muddy shores and (the) separation between the fore bay and main lake, it’s exposed land,” he said. “It’s not at full depth.”
Crews from Integrity Grading and Excavating in Schofield worked around the clock hauling about 200,000 cubic yards of material using four backhoes, five off-road trucks and three bulldozers.
Using global position system equipment, the crew dug 8-, 10- and 15-foot-deep areas in the lake.
The project came after 70 percent of voters in November approved spending up to $2 million to restore the lake. Integrity’s winning bid came in at $885,069.
The lake was partially filled Tuesday, Feb. 10. Water flooded in at about 50,000 gallons a minute, said Mark Pearson, the project’s foreman from Integrity. The fore bay—the area next to the railroad tracks designed to catch silt before it enters the main body of the lake—filled with about 7.5 million gallons in about 90 minutes, he said.
That’s much faster than predicted. Officials guessed it could take five to seven days for the lake to fill, Wietecha said, but on the heels of warm weather and rain, it was much quicker.
No plans have been finalized for shoreline vegetation or fish, Wietecha said, though the city and the Save Our Lake Environment group are discussing plans.
Janis Ringhand, chairwoman of the park board, said the city is working on a state Department of Natural Resources grant application for shoreline maintenance and vegetation.
“We’re really looking forward to completing the job with the proper planning and maintenance to maintain the lake for long term,” Ringhand said.
SOLE also is working with the DNR on requirements for fish cribs and a fish-stocking program, Wietecha said. Previously, the lake contained many rough fish, keeping away “the good fish,” Ringhand said.
The park board decided Monday night to have a grand reopening celebration during the city’s Fourth of July festival, which is held in the park.