Dams' removal back on table
DANVILLE — The city's administration will again push for removal of two river dams after receiving a letter from the director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources clarifying that the state will not put any money toward altering the two structures.
In the letter, the state agency's director, Marc Miller, wrote to Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer that funding from Gov. Pat Quinn's Dam Removal Initiative is for the purpose of dam removal only.
Eisenhauer said city officials will again put a resolution for removal of both dams on the council's agenda next month.
He said it will be an information-only item at the Dec. 3 city council meeting at which time the city will hold a hearing on the issue, offering the public the opportunity to comment on the resolution. Then, at the Dec. 17 city council meeting, aldermen will vote on the resolution.
Earlier this year, some Danville aldermen wanted city administration to determine whether the governor would be willing to put state funding earmarked for dam removal toward altering the two city-owned dams — one on the Vermilion River just east of Memorial Bridge on South Gilbert Street and the other on the North Fork of the Vermilion in Ellsworth Park.
The alterations would make the dams safer but also preserve the pooling effect above them that makes the water deeper and enables fishermen to use motorized boats to fish upstream.
Removal, which is the recommendation of the state agency and Danville administration, would be the safest option for the public but would make the river more shallow upstream, eliminating the use of motorized boats at certain times of the year. Local fishermen and others have voiced their objections to removal at various public meetings, claiming that it would lower the river level too much and harm the river habitat. Research presented by the state, however, concluded that removal would improve the fish habitat, allowing them to move upstream and downstream.
Miller states in his letter that while previous administrations at the state level have used state funds to alter lowhead dams, removal is in most cases the best option for public safety and health of the river environment and is the most cost-effective.
"Governor Quinn's administration remains committed to dam removals, and the IDNR would like to restate its commitment to fund these two dam removal projects," Miller wrote.
Although the state is committing the money, the ultimate decision about what to do with the two deteriorating dams that have been the site of multiple drownings in the last 20 years, rests with Danville aldermen, because the city owns the structures.