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In this 2009 file photograph weeds are shown choking the only outlet for water from Simonton Lake, Lilly Creek. Lake area residents want the ditch cleared and a water flow structure built in the ditch to control water levels in the lake. (Photo by J. Tyler Klassen) (AP)

In this 2009 file photograph Dave Foutz is shown talking about the weeds choking Lilly Creek, the difficulty in getting them cleared and the effects the weeds have on the water levels in nearby Simonton Lake. Foutz and other lake residents want the ditch cleared and a water flow control structure installed in the ditch to help control lake levels. (Photo by J. Tyler Klassen) (AP)

In this 2009 file photograph Dave Foutz points out damage to a neighbor’s seawall on Simonton Lake. Lake residents have been fighting for the instillation of flood controls on the outlet for the lake. The lake’s outlet, Lilly Creek, is choked with weeds and there is a higher level on ground water flowing into Simonton Lake from the north. (Photo by J. Tyler Klassen) (AP)
Project could help control water elevation at Simonton Lake

Posted on Dec. 11, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Flooded basements and soggy yards may become a thing of the past for residents who live along Simonton Lake.

Elkhart County is negotiating a contract with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, for a project that would control water flowing into the lake. A weir, or a small dam, would help prevent flooding that occurs when the lake’s water levels rise after heavy rain.

Discussions about the Simonton Lake project started two decades ago when the county was setting a legal elevation level for the lake. At one point, DNR had planned to pay for a weir to be built but later discovered that a statute in Indiana code only requires the state to pay for half of the construction costs, said county councilman David Foutz.

“This thing has moved with glacial speed, and we haven’t been able to get anything done, so things are really moving now,” said Foutz, who lives in the Simonton Lake area in the northern part of the county.

DNR has come back to the table offering to pay half of the construction costs up to $100,000. Members of the Simonton Lake Homeowners Association and the county would split the remaining costs, according to the new contract. If all parties sign on the dotted line, a weir would be installed at Lily Creek, also known as Osolo Township Ditch, north of C.R. 4 and south of the lake. The contract expires at the end of 2014.

Steve Schweisberger, the county’s deputy surveyor, said the cost of construction will depend on bids. A cost estimate for the project, not including design and engineering plans, is roughly $120,000, he said.

Foutz said funding for the lake project could be supported by an annual drainage fee paid by county residents. The county’s drainage board will review the contract today, Dec. 11.