Dam removal on Des Plaines River, Chicago River and other waterways will improve aquatic habitat and remove dangerous impediments to paddlers
RIVERSIDE – Governor Pat Quinn today moved forward with a major initiative that will significantly improve the health of Illinois waterways by removing or modifying 16 low-head dams throughout the state over the next several years. At an event in Riverside, the governor announced the completion of the Hofmann Dam removal. The dam removal initiative is the latest by Governor Quinn to protect the environment and preserve Illinois’ natural resources.
“Free-flowing rivers benefit all of Illinois,” Governor Quinn said. “Removing these dams will improve waterways across our state, making them safer for kayakers and paddlers who use them for exercise and recreation, and for anglers who enjoy fishing in these rivers. This dam removal initiative will improve conservation, water quality and outdoor recreation in Illinois.”
The Illinois Dam Removal Initiative will invest nearly $10 million to remove 12 dams in Cook County on the Des Plaines and Chicago Rivers, including the three that have already been removed. Those projects included removing the Hofmann, Fairbank and Armitage dams in Riverside, which is helping to restore the Des Plaines River to a more free-flowing channel. Removing these dams increases the diversity of fish and aquatic life, as well as eliminating dangers for undercurrents that were a threat to paddlers and fishing enthusiasts.
The removal of the three Des Plaines River dams, combined with the remaining nine removal projects planned in Cook County, are being funded through Governor Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital program. These dams are targeted for removal over the next two years. The dams being removed or renovated have no benefit to plants and animals that inhabit the rivers or to people who use waterways for recreation. In addition, four other dams on the Vermilion River and Fox River will be modified or removed as part of the initiative.
“Removing dams improves water quality, aquatic habitat and recreational safety,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller. “It also addresses the issue of dealing with crumbling and aging infrastructure, which would be much more expensive to repair or replace. These dams no longer serve their original purpose and removal or modification will save the state and local communities’ money in the future.”
Important factors that were considered in removal of the Hofmann Dam included the distribution and type of vegetation that occurs on exposed stream banks, the effects on local infrastructure and community support. The project was implemented under an agreement between the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The IDNR agreed to acquire all necessary rights of way for the project.
“The Forest Preserve District of Cook County is the property owner of much of the land along the Des Plaines River, and we have been strong supporters of the removal of the Hofmann Dam since day one,” Arnold Randall, Forest Preserve District of Cook County General Superintendent said. “Our mission is to maintain and preserve the natural lands of this County for the pleasure, recreation and education of the public. The Hofmann Dam removal project, and others like it, can help us do just that.”
The areas extending upstream from Hofmann Dam will see the most direct physical benefit from the improvements. The upstream reach and river channel have been converted from a slow-moving, deeper pool habitat to a free-flowing stream habitat. The most important benefits include enhanced drainage system at nearby Swan Pond Park to prevent entrapment of fish, increased fish passage, restoration of the natural flow of the river and improved public safety. More than 15 miles of the Des Plaines River, upstream of the previously existing dam, has been opened to all fish and other aquatic species and a significant increase in biodiversity will be gained.
“It’s time for these dams to be removed to protect waterway users and aquatic species alike,” said Margaret Frisbie, Friends of the Chicago River Executive Director. “When we eliminate these barriers we open miles and miles of the river system which is critical to restoring its health. ‘Friends’ has been working on dam removal with Governor Quinn from the beginning. I want to thank the Governor for once again being a champion of Rivers in Illinois.”
Governor Quinn’s $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program is the largest in Illinois history, supporting an estimated 439,000 construction jobs. The program, which aims to modernize Illinois’ infrastructure, began in 2009.
Remaining dam removal projects include:
The North Branch of the Chicago River -- Remove or modify four low head dams and free up 55 miles of waterway from downtown Chicago to the north. Partners include the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the Chicago Park District and other non-governmental organizations. Total cost estimate: $3,500,000.
*Tam O’ Shanter Dam - Removal
*Chick Evans Golf Course Dam - Removal
*Winnetka Road Dam - Removal
*North Branch Dam at River Park - Modification
The Des Plaines River -- Remove or modify eight low head dams and free up 32 miles of waterway for paddlers and fish passage. Partners include the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. Total costs estimate: $6,000,000.
*Dam 1 - Removal
*Dam 2 - Removal
*Dam 4 - Removal
*Dempster Street Dam - Removal
*Touhy Ave Dam - Removal
*Armitage Dam - Removal (work complete)
*Fairbank Road Dam - Removal (work complete)
*Hofmann Dam - Removal (work complete)
Other dams being considered for removal or modification under the initiative include:
*Blackberry Creek Dam (Yorkville, Fox River) - Removal
*Vermilion River Dam (Danville, Vermilion River) - Removal
*Ellsworth Park Dam (Danville, Vermilion River) - Removal
*Buzzi Unicem Dam (Oglesby, Vermillion River) - Additional modification