July 29, 2010, the long-standing Rose Hill Dam in Hand County’s Rose Hill Township, was swept away following a fast, torrential rain that brought up to eight inches to the area.
The earthen dam and concrete spillway could not withstand the fast surge of water, and about 3:30 a.m., the dam began giving away to the elements.
At the same time, two campers were hanging on to a tree as water rushed past them. Andy Brand and Joey Casper were enjoying a campout at the recreational areathey had no idea what lay in store for them, and they ended up clinging to a tree for four hours before the water subsided enough and they were able to move to higher ground, where they were later rescued.
The unleashed water did substantial damage to neighboring farms, several county and township roads were covered, and bridges were damaged.
Rose Hill Dam was started as a W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) project during the Depression, in 1934. Man and horsepower completed a major portion of the project. Local men used teams of horses and plows to build the dam, and fish were stocked after the lake was completed in time for the first rains to come in 1937. It has been owned and managed by Game, Fish & Parks since 1935.
For 73 years, Rose Hill Recreation Area was a great fishing spot, and provided an oasis on the prairie for campers and picnickers. The possibility that the dam might collapse seemed remote-until Mother Nature brought the catastrophic rains of July 29, 2010.
Rebuilding of Rose Hill Dam was considered, but its future was uncertain, and according to Jeff Peters, S.D. Game, Fish & Parks engineer, the chance of construction of a new dam was about 50-50, because of funding.
However, FEMA funds were received, and S.D. Game, Fish & Parks provided money for the project in their budget for the year that began July 1, 2011.
Cliff Stone, with the GF&P regional office, said work has been ongoing since May. A project kickoff meeting was held May 11, and site visits, surveys and soil borings began.
A consulting firm, HDR Engineering, Inc., from Rapid City, was hired to provide design services, which would encompass modern safety standards and regulations.
The process is well into development, said Peters. There have been some delays dealing with historical and cultural issues, and the rains this summer also put us behind schedule. Originally, the hope was to begin construction in September 2011, so the dam/spillway could be completed in time to capture the winter snowmelt.
However, Peters says GF&P plans to award the contract to reconstruct Rose Hill Dam in October or November. He said hopes are to have the dam either nearly or completely finished by late summer 2012. He anticipates the project will cost at least $1 million, if not more.
The new dam will be constructed on the site of the original dam. It will be in the ‘footprint’ of the first dam, Peters said. The lake will also be the same size (33.8 acres). Peters says the elevation of the lake needs to be controlled for safety purposes, to prevent flooding.
The dam will be refilled with winter snow/runoff, as well as rains. And Peters is also looking ahead to fish stocking plans.
Peters says the project is moving ahead on an aggressive time schedule. Rose Hill was a nice recreation area, and a nice fishery, and it will be again, he maintains.