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Buchanan County holds public meeting on dredging Lake Contrary

An attendee at the Buchanan County public meeting about dredging Lake Contrary asks a question during the presentation.

Posted on March 25, 2024

Buchanan County officials shared the proposed outline for dredging Lake Contrary with community members as they continue to consider the project.

Over 70 residents gathered Wednesday at the Remington Nature Center, where an engineer discussed the benefits of dredging the lake over a brief slide presentation. After a few slides, the presentation began to resemble a town hall, with residents asking questions about the project and a few questions about its feasibility.

Water Resource Engineer Donald W. Baker said the benefit of dredging Lake Contrary is to return the lake to its original function as a recreational attraction and habitat.

“The open water habitat supports, of course, the aquatic life and fish,” he said. “My understanding is that as part of that open water habitat, they’re also going to be putting in or maintaining some wetland areas as well, which is a more diverse type of habitat as well.”

Many of the attendees supported the dredging project, including Mark Catron, who was disappointed that he couldn’t take his kids to the lively Lake Contrary he grew up with.

“I remember the lake from its glory days, too,” he said. “I mean, back in high school, we’d utilize the beach (and go) fishing.”

Catron recalled camping at the lake when there was still a substantial amount of water. He said talks at the county level about economic opportunity with the lake gained steam nearly two decades ago, but they eventually fizzled.

“It might help promote some businesses to come back into the area and everything else,” he said.

St. Joseph resident Michael Paul Harris has been involved with Lake Contrary for decades. He said the meeting was wonderful because it revived the discussion of restoring a former asset to the community.

“This is the most progress we’ve had in 50-some years since I’ve been involved with Lake Contrary since 1965.” he said. “We have to move forward, and if we don’t do it this time, I don’t think it’s ever going to be done again.”

Harris said the loss of water at the lake has compounded the issue of finding spots for leisure activities during warmer days.

“The main thing is it’s open to everybody, and it’s free,” he said. “And the many times we’ve had swimming pools in the city that have closed during the summer months, and we didn’t have anything going on at Lake Contrary, summer after summer. So it’s an asset, it’s a no-brainer, it’s a win-win-win for everybody.”

Presiding Commissioner Scott Nelson gave closing remarks after the presentation. He said no final decision has been made on the project, but if the county decided to dredge the lake, it would be paid for with county funding and reserves.


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