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Town councilman: Holes in Edinburgh dam staying put, for now

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Holes that appeared in a historic dam in Edinburgh last summer won’t be fixed anytime soon because the town can’t afford the repairs.

The town would have to pay about $200,000 to direct water away temporarily just to inspect the dam below the current water level and find out what repairs are needed, town council president Ron Hoffman said.

Engineers have told the town that actually repairing the dam, which is located in the channel of the Big Blue River, would cost between $500,000 and $1 million, he said.

The holes in the dam don’t seem to have worsened since they first appeared last August, but the cracks also have been hard to spot since the water level has stayed higher through the wet winter, he said.

The structure isn’t a danger to the community, and if it broke it wouldn’t flood homes or businesses downstream of its location, officials have said.

The purpose of the dam was to turn a wheel at a flour mill built in the 1880s that no longer exists, not prevent water from flowing downstream, so the channel could handle the additional water flow if the dam collapsed, Hoffman said.

 The dam is a historic feature residents have asked to preserve. Many of them have fished for decades or sat to watch the water spill over the rocks.

Local officials, including council member and director of utilities John Drybread, have tried to find grant money. None is available at the state or federal levels for the project, and the town can’t come up with the money itself, Hoffman said.

The town does not have a repair budget for the dam, and doesn’t plan to create one. The town’s budget just covers its current expenses, and the town is going to leave the dam as it is, Hoffman said.

“Right now, there’s no funds. With no funds, we can’t do anything,” he said.

If the dam did collapse, the town would have to figure out what to do at that time but currently has no plans to make repairs, Hoffman said. The town owns the dam.

The dam had at least two 20-foot cracks, one of which clearly had water flowing through it during the summer, said Brian McKenna, director of engineering for Christopher B. Burke Engineering in Indianapolis.

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