Lake dredging project hits final summer

Local News

DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — The sights and sounds of the dredging barge at Lake Decatur will soon be gone.

“We’re ahead of schedule, should be finished by this summer.”

It was an ambitious, $90-million project to increase the capacity of the lake. City leaders and those who live along the waterfront say it was long overdue.

People we talked to say they’re not worried about having to listen to it when it starts up, they say it’s just a small disturbance.

As march ends, it’s peaceful in this basin of Lake Decatur. In just a few weeks, this machine will come back to life.

“They’re hoping to be finished this year.”

City councilman Pat McDaniel says after dredging started four years ago, the company is on pace to finish ahead of schedule.

“Anything can happen, but by October, November, it should be done.”

Those machines are sucking up soil from the bottom of the lake and pumping it to land a few miles away — but the process hasn’t come without its obstacles.

The city had to raise water rates to cover the more than 90 million dollars they borrowed for the project. McDaniel says in the end, it will all be worth it.

“It’s extremely important to our community, and any other community.”

Many who live on the lake’s shores are happy the work is wrapping up.

Keith Smith and his family plan to bring a new boat to their lakefront home.

“I was around for the drought we had a few years ago and that was an unpleasant experience to live through.”

He says he’d rather look out his window and see barge machines, than deal with a restricted water supply again.

“I think increasing the lake volume is important for the city to do.”

City leaders agree, because the last time the lake almost ran out of water, the hidden costs started to pile up.

“When we’ve had several droughts over the past 10-15 years, the last major drought we had ADM within a week shutting down production because of lack of water. You’ve got to have a good water source.”

ADM shutting down production wasn’t the only reason that got city leaders fired up. McDaniel told us about six years ago there was a company that almost settled on Decatur — not enough access to water was the reason they didn’t set up shop.

Lake Decatur was built in the 1920’s. After a major drought in 2012 the city launched what they said what their largest public works project since it was built.

In 2013, officials voted to more than double water rates over three years to help pay for it.

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