GOSHEN — Goshen Dam Pond has seen better days.
What was once a hot spot for fishermen, boaters and swimmers has become a relatively shallow body of water that the Elkhart River Restoration Association, or ERRA, hopes to return to its former glory. The group is eyeing funding for a $2 million project that would remove silt that has piled up on the bottom of Goshen Dam Pond over the past 150 years.
ERRA president David Troup and Bill Rieth, a board member for the group, met with the Elkhart County Stormwater Management Board on Monday, Oct. 28, to request $750,000 for the project. Rieth told the board that the pond was created in 1856 when the dam was installed. The pond was used heavily for recreation and functioned as a water storage facility that generated power for local businesses and later the entire city of Goshen. But over the past few decades, the pond has deteriorated.
Sediment has built up underneath the water’s surface, fish and wildlife habitats have weakened and vegetation has taken over parts of the pond, forming islands of invasive plants.
“Roughly two-thirds of the county is impacted by the Elkhart River watershed, and over the numerous years as sediment has flowed into the dam pond, it is now completely full,” Rieth said. “The average depth now is 3 feet, and it’s not really able to handle much more sediment.”
But the ERRA has a solution that will help, Rieth said. The organization plans to dredge roughly 34 acres of the pond to an average depth of 6 feet. In addition to improving water quality and weeding out invasive plants, the project would open the pond back up to recreational uses such as fishing, boating, kayaking and swimming.
“As a minimum, it benefits 50 years of sediment collection,” he said. “It could be another 100 years before something like this needs to be done again, so it really is a long-term solution. It benefits multiple generations of people in our community, far outlasting any of us in this room, outlasting anyone who lives around the dam pond itself.”
The stormwater management board is just the first stop of many on the ERRA’s quest to fund the dredging project, Rieth said. The group is also exploring private donations, other government resources and potentially a grant from the Elkhart County Community Foundation. The ERRA has secured close to $1 million in grants to reduce sediment and other pollutants from making their way into the Elkhart River.
Members of the stormwater management board were hesitant to vote in favor of the entire $750,000 request.
“I’m not against the project, but $750,000, that’s a hard sell,” board member Blake Doriot said, explaining that he wants to talk to his constituents about the project.
Mike Yoder, a county commissioner who serves on the stormwater management board, said he would be more likely to support a contribution to the tune of $250,000.
If the ERRA secures enough funding, the organization would like to begin dredging by July 2014. The work would likely take 26 to 31 weeks to complete. Rieth noted that the project must begin within the next two years or the ERRA’s permit issued by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will expire.