U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Study Recommends Removing Nine Fox River Dams to Rehabilitate River
Updated: Sep 6
Multi-year study finds removal of aging, obsolete dams would reduce water pollution, aid fish and wildlife recolonization, support native plants and small mammals, increase public safety, and cut municipal dam maintenance costs
Chicago, Ill − September 5, 2023 − The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released today the Tentatively Selected Plan (TSP) for the Fox River Connectivity and Habitat Study, recommending the removal of nine dams along the main stem of the Fox River to restore habitat and reduce pollution.
Currently, the Fox River, which extends from its headwaters in Waukesha, Wisconsin, to its confluence with the Illinois River near Ottawa, Illinois is considered impaired waters. For over two centuries, human activity in the Fox River Valley has eroded the Fox River’s free flowing state. Legacy dams no longer in use for their original purpose have segmented the river and reduced its connectivity and wildlife habitat. This has caused large algae blooms, the accumulation of sediments from agricultural and urban runoff, and the proliferation of invasive plant and animal species.
The TSP recommends the removal of dams in Carpentersville, Elgin, South Elgin, St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora, Aurora, and Montgomery. The vast majority of these dams were built in the 1800s to run milling operations but today are mostly obsolete. In recent years, dams on the Fox River have caused drownings and many more near-fatal accidents. Circular currents below dams can pull people and boats underwater even when the rest of the river is safe.
The TSP examined a range of measures to improve water quality in the Fox River, including taking no action, rock ramps, bypass channels, partial removals, as well as full removal of dams. Only the full removal of dams was found to successfully improve water quality, restore habitat, and require little to no maintenance costs, resulting in a healthier Fox River potentially for perpetuity.
“The difference between free-flowing and impounded sections of the Fox River is stark. Free-flowing segments have more native plant and animal species, significantly more harvestable sport fish, and cleaner water. Removing dams along the Fox River is the most effective, cost-conscious way to rehabilitate this gem of the Fox River Valley for perpetuity.” said Cindy Skrukrud, FRSG chair. “The TSP confirms what the Fox River Study Group has also found to be the best way forward for the Fox River: undamming the Fox.”
The TSP is a significant milestone in efforts to rehabilitate the Fox River. It is part of the Illinois River Basin Restoration Comprehensive Plan that was initiated in 2002 that seeks to restore the ecological integrity of the greater Illinois River Basin System.
Public comments about the TSP are now open until November 6, 2023. The full report of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report is available here. During the 60 day public review period, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers will also be holding public meetings to summarize study findings and hear public comments. Comments and/or questions can be sent to Mr. Ryan Johnson, Biologist, at Fox-River-Study@usace.army.mil. Scheduled meetings will be from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM in the following locations:
Monday, September 18 at the St. Charles Public Work Facility, 1405 S 7th Avenue, St. Charles, IL 60174
Tuesday, September 19 at the Heritage Ballroom at the Centre of Elgin, 100 Symphony Way, Elgin, IL 60120
Wednesday, September 20 at Waubonsee Community College, 18 S River Street, Aurora, Illinois 60506
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. www.foxriverstudygroup.org.