Wonder Lake dredging project tries to move ahead

WONDER LAKE – As the association behind a long debated and delayed dredging project at Wonder Lake waits on a final permit from the state, it is preparing to start construction on the first phase this fall.

The Wonder Lake Master Property Owners Association’s board of directors is set to vote on a $2.7 million contract at a special meeting Saturday morning.

The bid came in “significantly” lower than the only other bid the association received, lake manager Randy Stowe said.

While the association had hoped for it to come in lower, it was within the consulting engineering firm’s estimates, Association President Dick Hilton said.

The contract would cover the construction of a sediment drying facility, which would need to be built before any dredging can happen.

The restoration project is designed to deepen Wonder Lake by churning up soil at the bottom of the lake and then sucking it up, Stowe said. The soil and water then will be deposited in the sediment drying facility, which is basically a dug-out basin with a concrete structure to control the flow of water.

The project includes a engineered liner, which is two feet of compacted soil at the bottom of the basin, Stowe said. The liner, which is required by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, provides a safeguard against possible pollutants.

The liner added about $400,000 to the cost of the project, Stowe said.

The Illinois EPA is the final agency the association needs approval from. It already received the go-ahead from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Some of the delay has been caused by commenters who raised concerns that possible pollutants buried in the sediment would be released into the water with the dredging process.

One of the people with concerns is Kathy Hunt, who represents the Sunrise Ridge Estates Homeowners Association.

“Personally whatever is on the bottom of that lake I would not want ‘dumped’ in my backyard,” she said in an email.

She also voiced concerns about the costs the project has already racked up – more than a million in engineering, design and getting it through the permitting process – before the project has gained approval.

The association disputes these claims, citing multiple testings, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s public notice said the project would not cause any increases in pollutants except for some suspended solids near the dredging site.

Some directors raised concerns about what would happen in the “unlikely” instance something does happened, and so the association decided to include three years’ worth of contractor pollution liability insurance for $13,500, Hilton said.

Dredging would take a whole season, so the association hopes to build the sediment drying facility this fall, Stowe said. If it doesn’t get the permit in time, the facility then would have to be built next year and the dredging couldn’t happen until 2015.

Because the construction can’t move forward until the permit is in hand, the proposed contract becomes null and void with no money owed on either side if the permit is not received, Hilton said. The bid price is also good for 180 days under amendments that will also be voted on Saturday.

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