The future of the Echo Lake dam remains in flux as City of Burlington is scheduled to discuss the recent recommendations of citizen committee that studied options for Echo Park with or without the dam. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

Officials now must decide whether to remove or improve

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

Residents and city officials can rejoice in knowing state regulators formally approved Burlington’s request for funding Echo Lake Dam improvements under the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Municipal Dam Grant program.

The City of Burlington, which applied for the dam modification in its submission to the DNR, could receive up to $1 million to achieve Echo Lake Dam Spillway Compliance.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether the money will be spent to remove or improve the dam.

In a May 18 letter addressed to City Administrator Carina Walters, DNR officials completed the application scoring and ranking process for the 2021-23 Municipal Dam Grant program, which identified Echo Lake as a high priority.

“I am pleased to inform you that your grant application is grant eligible and has been placed on the priority funding list,” Grant Manager Wendy Soleska, of the Bureau of Community Financial Assistance, wrote to city officials.

State officials declared the Echo Lake project among the upper half of about two dozen approved projects during this grant cycle.

Peter Riggs, the city’s director of public works, said the state’s declaration is critical for Burlington’s project completion.

“We are thrilled that our project has been determined to be eligible for WDNR Municipal Dam Grant funding,” Riggs said. “Non-local funding support is critical for the completion of this project and we are grateful to be able to participate in this program. City staff are working with WDNR staff to work out the next steps in the grant participation process.”


Some relief

The grant funding, meanwhile, will offer some relief for city taxpayers who will be responsible for financing improvements to achieve satisfaction from the DNR.

Findings from a 2015 Dam Failure Analysis showed the Echo Lake Dam is classified as a significant hazard dam considering the structure’s relative size and cannot withstand a 500-year flood without overtopping Echo Park’s embankment.

The city must either modify, or remove the dam, by 2025.

According to initial estimates provided by contracted consultant Ayres Associates, costs of modifying the dam range from a low of $1.55 million to $2.44 million, while dam removal comes in at about $1.75 million.

Separate from the non-compliant dam, the city is also exploring dredging, which could remove thousands of pounds of sediment from the lakebed to improve recreational opportunities and would cost an estimated $2.5 million.

To read the full version of this story see the June 16 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.