By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican
Champion residents were dismayed to find trees being torn down around the Champion Lake dam earlier this week. The tree removal is part of a project by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) to repair the dam and deepen the lake.
BSB Construction Company of Curtis won the bid to rehabilitate the dam, damaged during a June, 2007 flood. It also won the bid to remove sediment from the lake and build a berm with it to control future flooding.
A year ago, Jim Fuller, administrator of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Parks Division, said the project called for “getting the trees off the dam.”
He said a storm, or “Mother Nature took care of (it). We had to remove roots and stumps so as to not damage the dam. I hope no more trees need to be removed,” he said.
Tuesday Fuller said of the recent tree removal, “My understanding is that the roots grew into the dam, making it unstable. I can’t tell off the top of my head how much needs to be taken out.”
Colin Carney, an engineer with NGPC, said the Department of Natural Resources, which determined that the dam needed to be repaired, requires that no trees be located on the dam itself.
He said the purpose of the project isn’t to take out trees but to make the dam and lake workable again.
Burton Beard is angry about the project and said he thinks “they ruined our lake.” He said there are no roots in the dam and said NGPC isn’t being truthful about the project.
“You used to be able to walk across the dike under shade and sit on benches in the shade. I can see no reason to take ‘em all out,” he said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, most of the trees on the east side of the lake by the dam were littering the ground. Laura Lou Kelly, who lives behind the tree break, held back tears while talking about the loss of the 100-year old cottonwoods.
Champion resident Dennis Spady, who lives across from the lake, said, “I want to see the final results first. I guess this is what was ordered, but we weren’t in favor of it. They (NGPC) said roots were growing through the dike. Roots weren’t growing through the dike,” he said.
The lake has been drained in preparation for the rehabilitation project.
It has been over a year since the Nebraska Legislature approved $55,554.25 for the NGPC to repair the dam and lake. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was to supply the balance of the cost.
The cost to repair the dam and remove sediment is $185,326.
Norma Lashley, president of BSB Construction Company, said Wednesday that she didn’t know how many trees would be taken out to the east of the dam, or if any would be taken out just north of the Champion Mill across the river. “I just know this is what they (NGPC) want, to repair the dam.”
Lashley also didn’t know when the project would be completed.
Fuller said he had hoped the project would have been completed by now.