City of Burlington officials are poised to approve a study that will help them determine the future of the Echo Lake dam in downtown Burlington. The city will need to upgrade or remove the bridge to bring it into regulatory compliance by 2025. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

Structure at Echo Lake will have to change by 2025, officials say

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

City officials said the Echo Lake dam in Burlington will more than likely change in the future.

But they acknowledge there are many lingering questions ranging from cost, dam modifications and even removing the dam entirely, among a series of other options.

City officials, however, hope a proposed feasibility study conducted by Ayres and Associates that is under Common Council consideration can shed light on the long-term future of the Echo Lake dam.

Peter Riggs, Director of Public of Works, acknowledged the dam has been a topic of discussion for several years and revealed the city faces compliance issues with the structure.

A Dam Failure Analysis, known as DFA, done in 2015 approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and concluded the Echo Lake dam carries a dam hazard classification of “significant.”

“The report classified our dam as a significant hazard dam, which sounds a lot scarier than it is,” said Riggs, adding the DNR only offers this category because of the dam’s relative size.

The DFA, or study, recognized the dam as currently configured does not pass the 500-year flood mark without overtopping the embankment at Echo Park.

According to DNR requirements, any dam classified as a significant hazard and fails to meet the 500-year flood standard results in non-compliance.

“Therefore, to be compliant with WDNR requirements, dam modifications must be performed to increase spillway capacity,” Riggs wrote in a city document.

“Alternatively, compliance can be achieved by dam removal.”

Riggs, who said the city faces a July 8, 2025, deadline for compliance, believes approving a feasibility study this year allows Burlington time to plan and budget any projects associated with the Echo Lake dam.

Ayres and Associates, which proposes a $13,500 fee for the study, plans to perform hydraulic modeling of the 100- and 500-year floods, analysis of multiple spillway configurations to contain the 500-year flood, review a dam removal option and offer cost estimates for all compliance alternatives.

The report will evaluate multiple alternatives with recommendations for further action.

To read the full story see the Feb. 4 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.