April showers, logjam keep conservation officers busy
By STEPH TAHTINEN
Mt. Pleasant News
April showers brought spring flooding to the Skunk River, closing the campgrounds at Oakland Mills and leaving the Henry County Conservation Department to clean up debris.
“April 15 we opened the campgrounds. April 19 we closed them,” Conservation Director John Pullis told the Henry County Board of Supervisors during the monthly department head meeting on Thursday morning.
Pullis said that the South Shore area got most of the damage, as a logjam by highway bridge has forced the current through the middle of the campground area, washing out the gravel.
“We’ve got gravel where we’ve never had gravel before, and we don’t have gravel where we’ve always had gravel,” said Pullis.
The logjam first formed in March, and Pullis and County Engineer Bill Belzer said that although the current logjam does not look as big, the logs are piled deeper than they were two months ago.
“It looks smaller from an area standpoint, but it definitely goes higher and deeper,” said Belzer.
A bright spot of the rain and flooding, Pullis noted, is that the water has washed away years of sand from the roads in the Water Works Park area.
“They look like we just put new gravel on,” said Pullis.
On the river, Pullis said he and Operations Supervisor Tony Millard have cleaned out most of the debris from behind the dam, so water is flowing through there again.
He also noted that three or four stones have broken off from the central pier on the Oakland Mills walk bridge.
The bridge was closed in November 2012 due to deterioration that has caused the weight capacity on the southern portion to be about half of what is required by Iowa Code. The county is looking into possible funding options to repair the bridge, which is listed on the state historical register.
In other updates during the department head meeting, Veterans Affairs Director Rick Van Winkle noted that there are more veterans seeking a special veterans designation on their driver’s license.
“That has increased almost twofold in the past month,” said Van Winkle, who noted that he has been doing about 10 per month.
This designation provides proof of veteran status, which is often needed to receive discounts provided to veterans at various businesses.
In order to receive the designation, the veteran must apply at the county’s veterans affairs office.
“They have to come see me,” said Van Winkle.
Van Winkle said he is also looking into holding a service fair, allowing veterans to come and see what services the veterans affairs office has to offer them.
“We have never done it since I’ve been here,” said Van Winkle.
It was noted that “years ago” there had been one held in Fairfield in conjunction with Jefferson County. This service fair would be in Mt. Pleasant, Van Winkle said.
Sheriff Rich McNamee and Planning and Zoning Administrator Joe Buffington noted during their updates that neighboring counties have recently seen activity from the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
McNamee noted that Van Buren County has been having problems with the group. Buffington said that Louisa County had received a request for a permit for a KKK rally.
It was noted that there had been some KKK flyers found in Rome and at the Salem Stub.