The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 16, 2013

Standing tall in support of area dams


DANVILLE — There has been a lot of people contacting me this week about the removal of the dams in Danville and I’ve not talked to anyone who is for their removal.

In fact, I personally believe it should be a county decision due to the fact that it will affect the drainage of much of the county to our west and north.

We need to pack the city council meeting on Wednesday at 6 p.m. and let them know how everyone feels. Contact your alderman and the mayor — let them know how you feel about this action.

My wife and I visited Idaho Falls this past fall, ate at a restaurant across the street and enjoyed a few hours there. The city of Danville is always promoting tourism in the area and we have more acres of public land in our county than other counties throughout the state except for the counties within the Shawnee National Forest to our south.

We have a state park, three wonderful county parks, a scenic river, a state wildlife area and a county with five rivers within its boundaries.

We have one of the best smallmouth populations anywhere in the state. These are just a few things of what Danville has to offer.

When my wife and I saw the tourists at Idaho Falls come from throughout the country we were amazed at how the falls attracted people.

The falls were not tall like those we saw in Yellowstone Park or at Niagara Falls, rather they were small beautiful falls and people would walk along the river, eat lunch at picnic tables and enjoy the day. No one seemed to worry about liability as there were no fences or barriers.

I read the dam reports this week. Has the state ever been wrong? Let’s go back to the filling of Lake Mingo. I trapped Windfall Lake at Indian Springs for years.

There was a need to kill out all the fish above the Lake Mingo before they filled it to keep out the rough fish. I was there when they killed the fish in Windfall Lake.

I have a degree in biology with a major area of concentration in fisheries biology.

 When I told the biologists doing the killing of the lake that they needed to go to the origin of the ditch feeding the lake I was told that they only needed to go where the ditch was three feet wide. They told me I didn’t know anything about the matter.

Four years after Lake Mingo was filled, a year in which a new lake should be in its prime, they had to kill the fish in the lake; too many rough fish!

  Remember the Lake Vermilion walleye fiasco? The state dropped 660,000 walleye fry into the lake and told us Lake Vermilion would be one of the best walleye lakes in the state.

The fish grew and grew for two years until they reached about 14 inches; legal size. At 14 inches they look like a long cigar with fins and eyes.

  In the spring we had a large amount of rainfall and the gates to the Lake Vermilion dam were opened to accommodate the excess water. The walleyes all went over the dam and into the river system. Our smallmouth will most likely do the same; head for the fastest water. Now try to catch a walleye in Lake Vermilion!

Here is food for thought. The city of Danville owns the land from Main Street down to the river. If they want tourism don’t make our scenic river the Middle Fork Creek and lose the canoeists and the fishermen.

Instead put a tall iron fence along the river from the bridge to the dam if liability is an issue.

Build a walking trail with points along the river to view it from platforms. Have areas for picnics; put a couple eating places on top for tourists, along with clean restroom facilities.

Place piles rocks along the dam to make it a small waterfall with several platforms for viewing and photography and make a beautiful park along the river.

The waterfall could be named after the young lady that lost her life at the dam and the park could and should be named in Bill Black’s honor for all his service to the area. There is not a more respected man in Danville today and that would be a fitting tribute!

I lost two students to the Big Vermilion River; neither was around a dam. Whenever you have water you will have people that will drown! You can do all you can to prevent it but you won’t stop it; it happens! Don’t do something you will regret down the road; as I said last week, once you take the dams out, you can’t put them back!

Sam Van Camp writes about the outdoors on Fridays and Sundays. Call him at 662-6559. Fax: 446-6648. E-mail: