LITTLETON — A construction project on the Wapsipinicon River in Buchanan County to replace the Littleton Dam with rapids, may create hazardous ice conditions on the river upstream, according to a news release from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Work is expected to start on Monday, Feb. 11.
Snowmobilers, ice anglers, and any other use of the Wapsipinicon River should avoid the area from the Cutshall Access to the Littleton Dam, the DNR warns.
The first step of the project involves removing the lowhead dam, which will drop the water level supporting the ice by about five feet. The ice may appear to be stable, but may have several feet of empty space below it and collapse unpredictably.
“This is a temporary, but hazardous condition,” said Todd Robertson, River Programs Outreach Coordinator for the Iowa DNR. “The water level will go back up as the rapids are built, but ice probably won’t be around anymore by then.”
The rapids will be built so the water will pool to about the same level as it was before. Nine fatalities have occurred in the Littleton Dam’s dangerous currents since it was built.
According to the DNR’s website, low-head dams are extremely dangerous and have caused the deaths of anglers, boaters, paddlers, tubers, swimmers, and would-be rescuers.
“Powerful recirculating hydraulics at these small dams can trap and drown unsuspecting river users,” it says.
The DNR has been involved with a number of lowhead dam removals in the state. For example, it supplied a $68,000 dam removal grant for the removal of a Quasqueton dam. The project to replace it with rock arch rapids was completed in August 2014.
The Rockford dam on the Shell Rock River was removed in 2014 with the help of a $30,000 DNR dam mitigation grant.
The DNR put $200,000 toward constructing the Manchester Whitewater Park in 2014 after removing a lowhead dam.