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Zerwekh's apologize for dam break

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Lake Country Reporter July 13, 1989

Zerwekh's apologize for dam break

A 300- to 400-yard stretch of the Bark River in the Town of Summit has become temporarily unnavigable because of a break in a privately owned dam during the Fourth of July holiday.

A board at the bottom of the dam apparently broke on Tuesday, July 4, allowing silt to be dumped into the river bottom.

The dam is owned by Kenneth and Margaret Zerwekh, 500 Mill Rd., Delafield. The Zerwekhs were out of town during the holiday.

Kenneth Zerwekh said he discovered the problem immediately upon returning Thursday night. He went to the lumber yard first thing Friday morning and repaired the dam, he said.

"We've had this dam for 42 years, and this is probably the worst thing we've ever had happen," Zerwekh said.

"We didn't put the silt in the pond. It's just something that happens," he said, adding that the Mill Pond gets the drainage from 47 square miles. "It's impossible to keep the silt from coming into the pond."

"We're just as sorry as can be," added his wife, Margaret. "It wasn't our fault. We didn't mean for this to happen... I guess the board just broke at a knot -that's what it looks like happened. And, of course, it had to be the bottom board, where all that stuff collects."

Jim Janiszewski of Al's Bait Shop, 34048 Delafield Rd., first noticed the problem on Tuesday, July 4.

"The water started flowing at a high rate of speed - I think it was on the Fourth -and it just kept running. It was kind of off color, but then on Thursday, I noticed the water was getting darker and darker," Janiszewski said.

Concerned about the amount of silt in the water, he filed a complaint with the state Department of Natural Resources, which tracked the problem to the break in the dam.

According to Jim Janiszewski, the incident is affecting the river in the area of his business, which is about 200 yards downstream from the dam.

Up to about a foot of silt has built up on the river bottom on either side of his shop, Janiszewski said.

Because the mud has reduced the river depth to only about eight inches in that area, the water isn't deep enough for boats.

Although most of his business is in outboard motor repair, Janiszewski said he has a consistent boat rental business, which will probably be affected by the accident.

"We used to be able to just push the boats in and float them; then customers could motor out," he said. "Saturday, we had to drag the boats down the river to the end of my property and load the customer's things. Then they had to row downstream, and row back upstream when they came back."

He said that since the accident, fish have become scarce in that area of the river, and even the duck population has moved downstream.

The river bottom near his business used to be a fairly clean gravel and rock base, which was attractive to bass. After the accident, those fish became hard to find, he said.

However, this week, several days after the incident, Janiszewski said a few fish have been spotted, and that could mean the population is returning, he said.

Although he has seen silt come down from the dam before, the problem has never been as serious as this, he said.

The state Department of Natural Resources is investigating the incident. However, DNR water regulation and zoning supervisor said the problem will not be that significant in the long run.


Nelson explained that the mud will eventually be washed downstream to the Nemahbin Lakes, and the river will be restored to its original condition.

Mrs. Zerwekh added that while she and her husband are sorry about the accident, she feels too much criticism is being sent their way.

"People don't realize all the stuff we fish out and prevent from going on downstream," she said. "The logs, the branches, cattail clumps, beer bottles, the barn door we just got yesterday."

Other items that have been stopped by the dam include picnic tables, boards, and other debris washing down from Cushing Park.

"I bet we take out a half ton of crud every year," she said.

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