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July 20, 2007

Gov. Blagojevich announces recommendations to improve safety at Illinois dams
Input will be sought on report recommendations from communities near dams

SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today released a new state-funded report by a private engineering firm that examines the current condition of 25 publicly owned dams on Illinois rivers and makes recommendations on specific safety improvements.

“Today, we’re taking an important step toward making Illinois’ waterways safer. The information contained in this new report will serve as a solid basis to make people more aware of dangers surrounding dams and create better warnings to help people avoid them,” said Gov. Blagojevich.

The dam safety report presents options and recommendations to improve the safety of boaters, fishermen and other recreational river users near 25 low-head or run-of-the-river dams on publicly navigable waterways. Not all of the options apply to each of the dams surveyed. Preliminary cost estimates are included with each option. The range of options includes:

  • Installing temporary rock fill.
  • Dam removal.
  • Constructing a bypass channel either beside the dam or in the river.
  • Installing a riffle pool, a series of boulders that help reduce the dangerous current below the dam.
  • Modifying the face of the dam.
Gov. Blagojevich included $10.3 million in his proposed FY08 capital budget for improving safety at dams, the first step in an initiative that is expected to take several years. This includes $2 million for short-term improvements such as signage, buoys, fencing, and temporary rock fill. The remainder of the proposed capital funds, $8.3 million, is suggested for major repairs, improvements or removal at state-owned dams. The introduced operating budget for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) also includes $143,400 for maintenance and engineering at dams. The General Assembly must pass a budget for these funds to available.

The study builds on IDNR’s ongoing dam safety efforts, such as buoys, signs, fencing, markings and clear zones. So far during 2007, the IDNR has performed the following dam safety work: 
  • Installed or upgraded more than 100 warning and marker buoys, including the addition of lighting on buoys for increased night time visibility at some locations.
  • Installed four new warning signs at the Kankakee Dam on the Kankakee River, four at the St. Charles Dam on the Fox River, and plans more new signs at the Oregon Dam and St. Charles Dam on the Fox River.
  • Completed a four-step, $2.27 million spillway safety modification at the Glen Palmer Dam as part of a larger dam modification project in Yorkville.
  • Distributed warning materials highlighting the dangers at dams including safety brochures, posters and radio public service announcements to educate the public about hazards near dams.      

The IDNR identified 25 publicly owned dams on the Fox, Rock, Kankakee, Des Plaines, Sangamon, and Vermilion rivers that are considered “run of the river” or “low-head” dams to be the subject of the dam safety report. The water flow passes directly over the entire dam structure of a “low-head” dam to a natural channel down stream. These dams may produce a pleasing visual image; however, the flow of water over the dams can produce a dangerous and possibly deadly undercurrent for anyone coming too close to the structure.

The 25 publicly owned dams surveyed include:

  • Rock RiverSears, Steel, Lower Sterling, Sinnissippi and Oregon dams.
  • Kankakee River:  Momence, Kankakee, Wilmington Millrace and Wilmington dams.
  • Fox River:  Yorkville, Montgomery, Aurora East, North Aurora, Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles, South Elgin, Elgin Kimball Street, Carpentersville and Algonquin dams, plus the William G. Stratton Lock and Dam in McHenry.
  • Des Plaines RiverHofmann Dam.
  • Sangamon RiverPetersburg and Riverside (Carpenter Park) dams.
  • Vermillion RiverDanville Dam.
Consoer, Townsend Envirodyne Engineers Inc. of Chicago (CTE) was hired by the Capital Development Board (CDB), the state’s construction management agency, to perform the dam safety survey and issue the report. They were paid $499,600 and began work in late 2006.

“We appreciate the attention to detail that was put into this report and will use its contents to develop standards that make the public safer. While we review the information, we will also be reaching out to communities and asking for local input before changes may be made at individual dams in the interest of public safety,” said Acting IDNR Director Sam Flood.

“We look forward to working with IDNR to develop dam safety construction projects and determine funding priorities. Our goal is to make Illinois’ rivers a safer place,” said CDB Executive Director Jan Grimes.

An Executive Summary of the dam safety report is available on CDB’s website at http://www.cdb.state.il.us. The full report will be available on the website in the next few days.

The IDNR coordinates with a number of other agencies regarding structural dam safety, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates hydropower dams for compliance with federal statutes, and the U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers, which operates and maintains the locks and dams on the Ohio, Mississippi, and Illinois rivers, as well as other agencies regarding dams they own, operate or regulate.


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