DANVILLE — Removal of the Vermilion River dam has been talked about for decades, especially since it was the site of three deaths in about the last 20 years.
The most recent was the drowning of a 24-year-old canoeist in July 2003. The canoeist and three companions went over the dam and got caught in the dangerous undertow. The other three female canoeists were rescued.
Another death occurred at that dam in 1998. Michael Steinwand was in a boat by himself, according to Vermilion County Coroner Peggy Johnson.
There also have been four drownings at the Ellsworth Park dam since 1970.
In 1987, 16-year-old Troy Leach drowned while attempting to rescue a friend who had fallen into the river just below the dam.
There also was a teenage death in 1935, three years after the dam was completed; and a 13-year-old and another 16-year-old died in 1971 in separate incidents.
Now within the next month or so, Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials will present a final strategic planning study recommending the removals of both the Vermilion River and Ellsworth Park low-head dams.
IDNR Director Marc Miller said a report will be provided to the city explaining the reviews have been completed and explaining the recommendations of a complete removal of the Ellsworth Park dam and complete notching of the Vermilion River dam. The buttresses would be left there for the Vermilion River dam behind the Public Safety Building, with the dam face being removed.
“Part is keyed into the bank, so you do not disrupt the bank …,” Miller said, adding that all the concrete that holds back the flow would be removed.
Other options looked at for the dams included partial removal, stepped spillway and rock ramp alternatives.
Run-of-river dams are those that span the entire width of a river channel and water continuously flows over the crest of the dam. The drop at the dam crest, and the often dangerous currents downstream, contribute to hazardous conditions for river users and pedestrians.