The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

April 20, 2013

Meetings set to discuss dams

BY JENNIFER BAILEY
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — On April 30, the City of Danville, in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will serve as host for an open house to present results of a recently completed Danville Dam and Ellsworth Dam Modifications Strategic Planning Study and draft report.

The open house will be 6–8 p.m. April 30 at David S. Palmer Arena, 100 W. Main St. A formal presentation is planned for 6 p.m. at the open house.

A Save the Dams meeting also has been set by concerned citizens for Monday.

Following a previous meeting that attracted more than 50 people, another Save the Dams meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Monday at the Knights of Columbus, 310 Bryan Ave.

The open house will include exhibits showing the conceptual details of the alternative modifications developed and investigated for both the Danville Dam and Ellsworth Park Dam to reduce or eliminate public safety concerns at the dams and to improve ecological and recreational conditions in Danville.

City and IDNR officials will be on hand to discuss the strategic planning study and recommended plans.

Written comments and questions will be accepted by the city and IDNR during the open house. For questions concerning the open house, call the city at 431-2400.

At the April 30 meeting, Illinois Department of Natural Resources representatives will be on hand to discuss the IDNR’s recommendations for partial dam removal for the Vermilion River dam and full dam removal for the Ellsworth Park dam.

“These recommended measures will eliminate public safety liability concerns created by these dams, restore ecological connectivity to these rivers, improve recreational use of these rivers and essentially eliminate the city’s future dam maintenance costs,” according to the IDNR executive summary report.

Opponents of the dam removals disagree.

They don’t want to see the Vermilion River and Ellsworth Park dams removed, but have other alternatives looked at more closely. They say the depth of the water and fish supplies will suffer.

Another issue that has come with the dams is city liability.

According to information from Risk Manager Kathy Courson with the city, the Illinois Municipal League Risk Management Association specifically excludes dams under liability coverage. There was no increase to the city’s liability insurance premiums due to the dams.

IDNR-studied alternatives show costs ranging from $1.46 million for full removal of the Vermilion River dam and $275,000 for full removal of the Ellsworth Park dam, to $1.83 million and $198,900 for partial removal of each, respectively; $3.72 million and $1.04 million for stepped spillways at each dam, respectively; and $2.7 million and $1.08 million for rock ramps at each.

Combined construction and design costs also are cheapest with full or partial removals.

The IDNR said public safety and fish passage is improved, but not restored, with a stepped spillway and rock ramp. Public safety and fish passage is restored, along with safe canoe passage, with a full or partial dam removal.

The IDNR completed fish samplings in 2004 and 2011 immediately upstream of the Vermilion River dam and about 100 feet downstream of the dam.

There were 23 species of fish upstream and 37 species downstream in 2004, with 22 species upstream and 39 species downstream in 2011.

The fish sampling numbers showed more bluegill in 2004 and more channel catfish in 2011.

As a potential project sponsor, the city will be requested to obtain all local permits necessary to construct the project, acquire all land rights required for construction, pay for any utility relocations required by the project, operate and maintain the project and pay any construction cost of enhancements requested by the city.

The IDNR/Office of Water Resources is prepared to commit to finalizing all planning, design and construction documents, oversee the bid process, supervise constriction, obtain all state and federal permits and pay for all construction costs directly related to the modification of the dams.