The ongoing efforts to continue the restoration of Five Island Lake, including the resumption of dredging operations, may take a huge hit if Governor Terry Branstad gets his wish. The Governor announced late last week that he wants to sharply slash funding for lake restoration projects across the state for fiscal year 2014, even though several studies show restoration programs are boosting both jobs and tourism in Iowa.
In his proposed budget for fiscal year 2014, the Governor proposed $1 million for lake improvements. Unfortunately, that figure is roughly a sixth of what the Iowa Department of Natural Resources had been advised to plan on for such work - $8.6 million which Governor Branstad had promoted when he took office in 2011.
Under Branstad's latest budget proposal, funding for lake restoration would increase to $6 million for the fiscal year 2015 budget.
For the Five Island Lake Restoration project, the Governor's proposal could put a severe crimp on the efforts. Currently, the project has a budget of $400,000 for the dredging and watershed improvement work. The Iowa DNR had budgeted $400,000 for Five Island Lake in the fiscal year 2014 budget, but under Branstad's budget proposal, the funding for Five Island Lake would be cut in half to $200,000.
Residents of Silver Lake at Ayrshire will also feel the effects of the Governor's budget proposal. Originally, the DNR proposed construction of a fish barrier, along with watershed and in-lake work for Silver Lake, located west of Ayrshire. The DNR had budgeted $200,000 for the work in fiscal year 2014, but Governor Branstad's budget proposal allows no funding for the Silver Lake project.
Restoration efforts for Lost Island Lake north of Ruthven are the only plans unaffected by the Governor's proposed budget. The DNR plans to continue the removal of rough fish from the lake, with a budget of $50,000 for fiscal year 2014, and the Governor's budget proposal funds the entire $50,000 amount.
Another area lake that could take a massive hit in its restoration efforts is Storm Lake, which has also been engaged in an ongoing dredging project. The DNR had budgeted $1 million for fiscal year 2014, but under the Governor's proposed budget, only $250,000 would be allotted to the project.
Several state lawmakers are mounting a concerted effort to restore funding to the DNR for the continuation of lake restoration efforts, citing studies that show lake recreation is a $1.6 billion business in Iowa, accounting for thousands of jobs. Sixty percent of Iowans report visiting lakes each year and many lakes, such as the Iowa Great Lakes, are major tourism destinations that have significant impact on the local economy.