Resolution drafted to authorize studies for removal of dam

Resolution drafted to authorize studies for removal of dam

DANVILLE – Feasibility studies may be the on horizon for removal of a low-head dam on Vermilion River.

The city's public works committee will consider a resolution authorizing the mayor to pursue engineering studies and evaluation of the dam's deconstruction. The resolution will also permit officials to seek funds for the study.

The Vermilion River Dam Committee met Wednesday to discuss the next steps, which included drafting the resolution.

The low-head dam is east of Memorial Bridge on South Gilbert Street behind the David S. Palmer Arena. It has been the site of three drownings. The last accident occurred in July 2004 and claimed the life of a 24-year-old Champaign student, who was one of four women to canoe past a takeout point and capsize near the dam.

The accident prompted city officials to study the safety of the dam. In 2005, the Vermilion River Dam Committee, appointed by Mayor Scott Eisenhauer, recommended removing the low-head dam.

Advance warning signals have been installed since the accident.

State officials announced last year that they would hire outside help to assess the safety of 25 river dams, including the Vermilion River dam.

The 90-year-old dam is deteriorating, and its removal, while costly, would not affect endangered species, according to committee members in 2005.

Removing the dam would mitigate its potential hazards and improve the river's environment, Public Works Director Doug Ahrens said.

During Wednesday's meeting, City Engineer David Schnelle said the most immediate need now for the dam is a feasibility study on its removal.

Another study to be conducted with the U.S. Geological Survey's Illinois Water Science Center would look at the current sediment transport in the river. The five-year study would look at the pre- and post-movement of sediment at the dam site.

Officials would study how the sediment would affect the river's banks and adjacent property as well as determine if they need to trap and remove the sediment.

Funding has yet to be identified, but the engineering cost of the project is around $1 million.

If funding is found, then the dam would be removed a year or more after the studies commence, Schnelle said.

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