Sand Creek is going from flooding out of its banks to nearly dry in less than 30 days.

A leak in the Sand Creek Dam south of First Street is causing the creek to drain.

According to Newton public information officer Erin McDaniel, after recent high-water events, city parks staff noticed the rubber bladder on the adjustable inflatable dam appeared to have a problem on the north side. The air inflation equipment is now struggling to keep up, which could indicate a significant leak.

Once the water level is down, staff will evaluate the dam and determine next steps and the cost of possible repairs. The bladder has been in service since the 1980s.

"We are glad that it has lasted as long as it has," McDaniel said. 

According to McDaniel, the dam could cost at least $250,000 to replaced — based on estimates done during the last inspection "several years ago."

"It has been a few years since we have had the dam inspected. It has been on the [Capital Improvement Plan] for a few years because we knew at some point it would need to be replaced," McDaniel said.

The city is looking at possible funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or through a state flooding disaster declaration from this year. 
The lowering of the dam is not unexpected for this year, as it was scheduled to be lowered in August for a sanitary sewer upsizing project that is expected to take a few weeks. As a result of that project on the calendar, the creek will now remain drained until that project is complete.

According to city staff, this will affect the Sand Creek Summer Daze Festival coming in August. Some events scheduled for being on the creek will have to move or cancel.

According to city staff, the dam is in place to provide an aesthetically pleasing pool in the creek throughout Newton. Without it, Sand Creek would be just a small, meandering channel.

Funding from the Corps of Engineers would not be unheard of. The last major project for Sand Creek was a renovation of the creek banks and bed in 2009. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had mandated improvements to the creek in 1997.

The city initially considered a phased-in plan, but the Corps did not approve that approach. The total cost of the project was $12 million. Of that, $5 million was federal funding secured through federal environmental restoration funds.

The goals of the project were bank restoration, hardwood planting areas and a wetlands area. Original plans called for work to be done between First Street and Main Street. Because of cost underruns by the Corps, the city was able to expand the project south of First Street on the east bank. The project included placing quarry stone along the banks below the waterline to about 2 feet above normal water depth, and building a concrete walking and biking trail, which maintenance vehicles can use.