Last known suspect in Pelican-Lizzie ‘water wars’ admits the deed
1968 is believed to be the last undercover attack on the Fish Lake-Pelican River dam…And teenager Kim Janecky was one of the candlestine commandos
A half-century later, the last known culprit involved in the Lake Lizzie-Pelican Lake “water wars” recently stepped forward with an admission of guilt.
For much of the last century, Pelican Lakers battled resort “kingpin” Roy Dunn, over the Fish Lake Dam and impacts on water levels. Across the decades, there have been reports of midnight “raids” to alter the water flows–including legends of dynamite blasts from the dry years of the “Dirty Thirties” into the 1960s.
Dunn, of Dunn’s Lodge and the Dunvilla resort empire, was viewed as the “villain” to Pelican Lakers. He wanted to keep the water flowing downstream to Lizzie for his water wheel and his resort guests.
An armed guard was even hired to stand watch over the so-called “Fish Lake Dam” site between the Pelican Chain and downstream Lake Lizzie. The guard’s mission: Prevent famous resort owner Dunn from plowing around the dam to free water flow downstream to his Lake Lizzie resort operation in Dunvilla.
By one account, “dynamiting of the dam was almost as common…as the spring thaw.”
In retaliation, Pelican Lake factions–according to legend–would repair, fortify and bolster the dam in an effort to keep Pelican levels up.
There were few suspects identified in these escapades, as far as we know of the public record.
Going public with True Confessions is Kim Janecky–who was an accessory in a covert rebuilding of the dam.
“I admit the deed,” chuckled Janecky.
Fortunately for Janecky, the Statute of Limitations will save him from prosecution.
The year, about 1968.
Janecky was only 16, but accompanied a gang of older Pelican Lakers on a mission: Reinforce the dam to maintain Pelican water levels. Among the gang members, his father WJ Janecky, a dentist in Barnesville; along with Dean Barr and Parker Simison and others. Another Pelican resident, George Martin, evidently procured a cement mixer and a barge to haul the building materials across the lake. Those guys are all gone, so only Janecky
lives to tell the tale.
“We put a plank on both sides, then poured conrete,” recalled Janecky. “As far as I know, our work held for quite a number of years.”
By Janecky’s memory, the barge full of “pirates” weren’t particularly undercover about the whole operation. “It didn’t seem like anybody was too concerned about getting caught,” said Janecky.
“I didn’t really feel like a criminal…we were just doing what was right for the lake,” laughed Janecky. “We were the little guys. Roy Dunn was sort of the evil, powerful plantation owner, trying to control the river.”
As far as they were concerned, Roy Dunn was the dam “saboteur”–not them.
In fact, Dunn sued the Pelican lake group back in the 1930s for $25,000 in damages for blocking the flow of water to Lizzie and his resort. By the time the case was settled, Lake Lizzie was seven feet below ordinary levels.
In a hearing in August of 1936, the judge ordered the lake association to lower the dam and increase water flow downstream.
The suit was finally settled in 1937, with the association agreeing to pay Dunn $250 and relinquish control of the dam, according to accounts in the book Pelican Lakes: The History of a Minnesota Community.
Heavy rains in 1937 replenished the basin, but the cycle of dry and wet years continued for decades. In the 1950s, the dam was repeatedly vandalized.
Dunn, a longtime state legislator with powerful Republican party connections, was the usual suspect in removing planks to increase the flow to Lizzie.
It is a curious irony that Janecky–the guy who assisted the Pelican Lake crew in fortifying the dam to deprive Lizzie of water–is now a lake place owner on Lizzie.
Further irony: When the recently-completed $400,000 Fish Lake Dam modification project was initially proposed, a citizens advisory panel was appointed.
The Pelican Lake Improvement District thought it was diplomatically appropriate, given the contentious history of the dam, that other interests be represented, including downstream. Pelican Rapids Mayor Brent Frazier was named, as well as a Lizzie representative.
As current president of the Lake Lizzie Property Owners Association, it was Janecky who received the call.
So, the probable last living “suspect” in what is believed to be the last illegal dam alteration caper by Pelican lakers was now on the other side of the table–representing Lizzie.
Another side note revealed during Janecky’s confessional: “Collusion” by two major resorts in altering water flows on the Pelican River.
It can’t be proven, but Janecky recalls dinner-table conversations that owners of a certain large resort on the north side of Pelican may have, at minimum, looked the other way when Roy Dunn sabotaged the Fish Lake Dam over many decades.
Because lower Pelican Lake levels created more beach-front area for resort guests; and also reduced flooding risks at the resort’s lakeside structures.
That resort, which may or may not have directly colluded with Dunn’s Lodge, shall remain unnamed here–other than to note that it is still in existence today.