PERU — Miami County Commissioner Larry West said he was shocked last month when he received a letter from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources saying he owned a portion of a deteriorating dam built near his house and he needed to pay to fix it.
West wasn’t alone. About 20 homeowners in the Hidden Hills housing edition just north of Peru received the same letter.
The edition has six dams. The oldest was built more than 20 years ago. West said the dams, installed before the housing edition was put in, were built to turn the natural gullies in the area into man-made lakes.
The letter says the dams were never permitted or inspected by the DNR and did not receive pre-construction approval. After an initial inspection, officials said, the dams need maintenance and the owners of the dams have to pay for it.
“The initial reaction was, ‘Oh my gosh, my property isn’t going to be worth anything of its original value,’” West said last week. “This is of terrific concern to the property owners.”
It’s also a major concern for the county, which maintains roads that run over four of the dams. West said the commissioners’ attorney and county engineer are currently examining the county’s responsibility in maintaining the dams.
Phil Bloom, communications director for the DNR, said the non-permitted dams came to the department’s attention when DNR officials were in Peru touring a floodplain site this year. He said just from a brief visual inspection, officials determined the dams had not been built properly and needed repairs.
Bloom said he didn’t know the specific repairs needed on the dams, but noted all six are considered high hazard. That means if the dams break, they could pose a serious threat to property owners downstream.