ANGOLA — There’s been talk that the road over the Lake George bridge be closed to traffic.
But that’s all that it is, talk. There are no current recommendations from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to eliminate traffic over the bridge that takes much traffic to and from the west side of Lake George, said Jen Sharkey, highway engineer. Nor is she making such a recommendation.
“It wouldn’t be very popular,” Steuben County Commissioner Jim Crowl said Monday morning.
It was part of a wide-ranging infrastructure discussion among members of the Steuben County Board of Commissioners, highway officials and the public that covered everything from dams and road projects to how a new roundabout in the planning stages might look when completed a few years from now.
Sharkey talked about a variety of dams in the county, particularly those with county roads running over the top of them, including those at Lake George and Jimmerson Lake. Also brought up was the dam at Lake Minnefenokee, which is reportedly in poor condition, based on a report from Trine University engineering students of a few years ago.
Ken Smith, an assistant director with the DNR who is responsible for dams in the state, said his conversations with Sharkey about dams in Steuben County were just that, chats, kicking around ideas.
“This was just off-the-cuff conversation (about dams),” Smith said. “We were just kind of bouncing around ideas. ... Certainly there’s pros and cons, benefits and drawbacks.”
The suggestion was to close the road and put cul-de-sacs on either side of the bridge.
Sharkey said the conversations began when she called Smith after a resident made the claim that the county owned the dam at Nevada Mills — it doesn’t own any — and there was debris that needed cleaning from the structure (the county did, with DNR approval).
There’s often concerns with dams in the county, particularly certain dams, like Lake George, that are considered high hazard. A high hazard dam is one that would inflict much damage downstream with a high potential for loss of life if were to fail.
This classification has nothing to do with the condition of the dam. The two dams at Hamilton Lake are considered high hazard, also. Nevada Mills is classified as a significant hazard, one that if it were to fail it could cause considerable property damage downstream, possibly taking out public utilities, but loss of life is not expected.
A low hazard dam, like Lake Minifenokee and many at farm ponds, would only cause property damage at or near the property where the dam exists.
The DNR regulates some 1,100 dams in the state. There are only a handful of dams that are regulated by the DNR in Steuben County. However, with ponds and other structures that regain water, Crowl said there were about 70 dams in the county.
Meanwhile, Sharkey said no matter how the new roundabout for the intersection at C.R. 100N at C.R. 200W turns out, whatever lies in the middle needs to be low maintenance. After a study of the intersection was completed recently, the Indiana Department of Transportation came up with a plan to improve traffic in the area by installing a roundabout.
After a meeting with highway officials on the subject, Sharkey said she would like something decorative and, “My recommendation was low maintenance.”
The much delayed Steuben County Multipurpose Trail, Sharkey reported, should be completed soon, with the laying of pavement planned to start today.
“We’re targeting the end of this month to have that completed,” she said.
Sharkey took ribbing from commissioners on the projected completion because of the many delays that have beset the project. It was supposed to be substantially complete last fall but weather pushed it into this year. Then May was projected, then June and now July.
She reported that a handful of people have contacted her office, requesting the trail be expanded elsewhere in the county.
Weather again is an issue this year. Highway Superintendent Emmett Heller said last week that his department was about a month behind with maintenance projects. And last week was spent cleaning up damage from extreme rainfall events that have damaged roads and shoulders.