Environmentally-friendly dam modification proves to be a recreational boom for Manchester


Unpassable dams like this one along the Maquoketa River are being revamped to create aquatic attractions (Matthew Hoelscher/Flickr)
Unpassable dams like this one along the Maquoketa River are being revamped to create aquatic attractions (Matthew Hoelscher/Flickr)

The removal and modification of an obsolete low-head dam in Manchester is proving to be a big hit for the community.

Manchester is now home to the state’s largest white-water course, which runs through the Maquoketa River right through downtown. The 800-foot white water course with six moderate, tubing and kayak-friendly drops has attracted hundreds of visitors from around the country since its official opening in mid June. Charles City and Elkader have also completed similar white-water projects from derelict dams.

Rock arch rapids like Manchester’s simulate natural rapids using re-engineered or modified low-head dams, many of which have deteriorated over time and were previously not passable for aquatic life, canoes and kayaks. In addition to becoming new destinations for kayaks and canoes, these projects also remove barriers to fish migration and improve recreational safety. The projects may prevent tragedies like a tubing accident at a low-head dam that claimed one life in the summer of 2014.

The Iowa Legislature recently increased its annual budget for small-scale dam removal and water trails to $2 million, according to a recent report in The Gazette. Manchester’s white-water rapids, which have brought in visitors from other cities and other states, may prove to be a model for future projects that wish to combine environmental sustainability with economic development.

 

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