County takes up Lake Jacomo work

Jeff Fox

Jackson County plans to make state-required repairs and upgrades at and near Lake Jacomo.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has turned up concrete problems in 2018 and 2019 inspections of the dams at Lake Jacomo and Prairie Lee Lake, and the sewage system at the Lake Jacomo campground and marina needs to be replaced.

“Our current wastewater treatment facility is over 20 years old and no longer meets DNR standards,” Michelle Newman, director of Jackson County Parks + Rec, told county legislators this week. “Our goal is to construct a new on-site, self-contained unit that will then meet all of DNR’s requirements.”

The county had penciled in $250,000 for each project, but officials say those numbers could change once engineers take a closer look.

“There’s more work probably to be done to these spillways that will be reflected in what we’ve asked from you today,” Newman said.

County legislators asked Parks + Rec and the Public Works Department to develop better cost estimates before they sign off on letting bids for the work. Those bids would go out late in the year.

There is some urgency to this issue. The DNR approves operating licenses for both dams. Jacomo’s is up in October 2021, and Prairie Lee’s is up the following January. Officials say the DNR could deny those permits if the county hasn’t at least made a good-faith effort to address the concrete failure issues.

“They have not specifically said that, but that is a concern that we have,” Newman said.

The dam at Lake Jacomo – 74 feet high and more than 1,500 feet long – dates to 1956, holding waters from the East Fork of the Little Blue River to create a 1,200 acre lake. Liggett Road passes over the dam.

The Prairie Lee Lake dam immediately upstream is even older, dating to 1939 and creating a 300-acre lake.

County officials say they have generally directed park money to investments – such as upgrades to the campgrounds – that bring in more money for the county, but they acknowledge these other, non-revenue producing needs as well.

“We have very limited capital dollars annually,” Newman said.

But more work is likely coming.

County Administrator Troy Schulte said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that the Jacomo marina needs upgrades in areas such as floatation, and he floated a figure of $1 million for that. Brian Nowotny, deputy director of Parks + Rec, mentioned that as well but added that the Corps of Engineers has been open to that work being done over time.