An Iowa-based conservationist and expert in dam modification believes the proposed whitewater park can be constructed without affecting water levels upstream.

More than 20 people were on the virtual Whitewater Park Steering Committee Monday, July 20, meeting to listen to guest speaker Chuck Ungs, who worked on a dam modification project in Iowa to build the Manchester Whitewater Park.

The removal of the Fourth Street dam is being proposed to create a whitewater park on the Yahara River. Residents who live both upstream and downstream of the dam have voiced concerns about what the removal of the dam will do to the water levels and the ecology of the wildlife that live there.

Ungs, a naturalist who has a degree in fisheries and wildlife biology, said he believed dam removal would bring positive impacts similar to what was seen in Iowa.

Ungs said that removing the low head dam and building the whitewater park on the Maquoketa River has created an economic opportunity for the city, improved natural fish spawning on the river and water level upstream did not lower.

Ungs, who listened to speakers during the public comment period, said the concerns from Pleasant Springs, Dunkirk and Stoughton residents mirror the comments from people in Manchester.

The dam removal’s effects on water levels upstream, specifically at the bay east of Williams Drive, has been a major concern for some residents since dam removal was proposed in the fall of 2019.

“It’s a misconception that (dam removal) will have effects that far upstream in terms of water flow or water level,” he said.

In referring to the Manchester dam, he said the only effect its removal had upstream improved water quality.

Ungs said the aquatic environment will likely improve with dam removal because there will be less build up sediment and more spawning of fish throughout the Yahara River.

The current engineering studies commissioned by Stoughton’s Whitewater Park Committee from Recreation Engineering and Planning, the company building the park showed almost zero water depth change from Coopers Causeway, which is just north of the Forton Street bridge, to Lake Kegonsa dam. Previous studies showed a 6-7 inch fluctuation in water depth, the Hub previously reported on June 9.

REP’s study used a hydraulic model with the river’s average flow of 380 cubic feet per second. It shows a 0.1-foot change from Cooper’s Causeway to County Hwy. B, and zero change from County Hwy. B to Lake Kegonsa Dam, according to an email from city parks and recreation director Dan Glynn, who has been spearheading the whitewater project for about three years.

Whitewater Park Steering Committee members have repeatedly said that the dam removal is imperative for safety and Ungs agreed, calling dams “drowning machines.”

An economic study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison done in cooperation between Glynn and graduate student Tsung-Lun Hsu, found that the park could attract between $2 million and $30 million in spending to the city annually. Ungs estimated more than 350 people were at the whitewater park in Iowa, on Saturday, July 18 when it was hot and humid.

One suggestion Ungs had, and said he wished would have done differently in Manchester, is to allow more access points for people with disabilities and more access points for fishers.

Contact Mackenzie Krumme at mackenzie.krumme@wcinet.com.