On July 9th, 2006, Megan Pavelick drowned at the Boone Waterworks dam shortly after starting a tubing trip down the Des Moines River with friends. It almost became a bigger tragedy when a nearby fisherman nearly drowned while assisting in the rescue effort. The drop over the dam that day was reported to be a mere 14 inches, but the hydraulic was enough to entrap and claim Megan as the latest victim of that dam. Less than a hour later two canoeists escaped the deadly hydraulics after their canoe swamped while paddling over the dam.
The tragic events motivated John Wenck of the Iowa Whitewater Coalition to work with local officials to arrange a meeting for discussion of ways to prevent another reoccurance. He also enlisted the support of the IWC board to donate better warning signs for immediate installation at the dam site. On July 19th at the Boone County court house, IWC members met with representatives of the Boone Waterworks, Boone County Conservation, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Army Corps of Engineers, other paddling groups and a state legislator. All agreed that changes are needed at the dam. Several options including buoys, cables and rock-arch rapids were discussed including hopes for forward looking legislation.
As a first step Roy Martin, Boone Utilities Superintendent, accepted the IWC donated warnings signs and their maintenance. The signs were installed the next day. The Boone Waterworks determined that additional signs would be purchased and installed for the opposite bank. Efforts going forth include design of a dam bypass portage trail and bridge with appropriate signage, river access signage to direct canoeists and tubing enthusiasts to put in below the dam, and establishment of a workgroup to investigate options for physical modifications to the dam that would lead to hazard reduction.