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Study Group Estimates Fox River Communities Would Save $145 Million by Removing Dams

Updated: Mar 21

Municipalities along the Fox River are legally required to correct impairments in the Fox River. Dam removals completed with federal matching funds would reduce costs to residents and provide the greatest benefits to water quality and wildlife.

Oswego, Ill - November 6, 2023 --- The Fox River Study Group estimates that removing dams on the Fox River would save area taxpayers $145 million compared to other alternatives. Currently, each segment of the Fox River in Illinois fails to meet water pollution standards and municipalities are on the hook to rehabilitate their portions of the Fox River.

Options to improve water quality include upgrading wastewater treatment facilities and removing dams. Dam removals are recommended by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to improve the health of the Fox River, and the Fox River Study Group findings show dam removal is the most effective way to improve water quality. Along with their recommendation, USACE has committed to cover 65% of the cost of dam removals. USACE’s recommendation is supported by 20 years of scientific research by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Fox River Study Group.

The total, one-time cost of dam removals to local municipalities is estimated at $5 million. Dam removals would eliminate the need for an estimated $150 million in treatment upgrades at wastewater treatment facilities along the Fox, creating a net public savings of $145 million.

Karen Clementi, District Manager at the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District said, “For example, the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District has already acquired loans of approximately $100 million dollars for meeting current requirements. Engineers estimate that further wastewater treatment process upgrades at Fox Metro would require an additional $95 million in capital costs alone plus millions of dollars in additional annual operating costs.”

Elgin City Council member John Steffan said, “I am interested in remaining in the process and reviewing our City's options. I recognize the significant benefits of matching federal funds and intend to pass on these tax savings to our constituents. I am proud of our responsible balanced budget year over year and are bringing this same mentality when assessing the future of the Kimball Street dam that is facing significant aging and requires ongoing repair and investment.”

While there is broad agreement on the public safety, economic and environmental benefits of dam removals, the process to remove dams would involve careful planning and engineering along with public engagement to ensure that dam removals will create benefits for recreation and natural resources.

Ryan Johnson, Biologist, USACE said, “Our mission is to deliver vital engineering solutions to secure our nation, energize our economy, and reduce disaster risk. Our analysis indicates that dam removal is the most effective solution for restoring habitat for native fish, birds, and plants in the Fox River. Once we finalize a recommended plan and confirm that we have a willing and able local cost-share partner, we would seek federal funding to cover 65% of the cost of design and implementation.”

Residents interested in submitting comments or questions can send them to Mr. Ryan Johnson, Biologist, at through November 6th. Residents in support of dam removals along the Fox River can sign the Fox River Study Group’s petition at

About Fox River Study Group:

The Fox River Study Group is a diverse coalition of stakeholders using science to guide the region toward a cleaner, safer and more beautiful Fox River. We use research, data and collaboration to support sustainable policies and development across the Fox River watershed.


Kyla Donato



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