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Article updated: 3/31/2013 7:44 AM

New alliance working to solve issues with Bangs Lake channels

By Russell Lissau

Residents who live on the channels that feed into Wauconda's Bangs Lake long have complained about low water levels and other environmental issues. The concerns came to a head last summer when the drought left the channels so shallow, they were impassible by boat.

"You couldn't go in there for fear of your boat getting stuck or damaging your outboard motor," said resident Ken Siwieck, whose home is on the Circle Channel.

Siwieck and other concerned residents now are working with local officials, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and other agencies to solve the aquatic problems there.

Dubbed the Bangs Lake Channel Alliance, the group will investigate possible dredging projects, environmental improvements and possible funding sources.

With good weather and the boating season on the horizon, Mayor Mark Knigge said he hopes to tackle the issues soon.

"We need to be very aggressive," Knigge said. "The quality and health of that lake is one of our key objectives."

A naturally forming glacial lake, Bangs Lake is at the heart of the village and is a major attraction for the town. Most of the shoreline around the 306-acre lake is privately owned, but the Wauconda Park District maintains a public beach and facilities.

The three channels that feed into the lake -- Circle, Washington and Kimball -- are on its north side. They're all privately owned, officials have said.

The Circle Channel is of particular concern to Siwieck and his neighbors in the Lakeview Villa subdivision.

Two boats used to be able to pass each other with ease, Siwieck said. But by the end of last summer, the water was so shallow, even one couldn't get through.

Resident Jack Marcus estimated the channel's depth is less than 1 foot in some parts, down from 6 to 10 feet.

"Kayakers were the only people able to get through the mouth (of the channel) the entire summer," Marcus said in an email.

The wind pushes debris from the lake into the channel, too.

Additionally, an odor caused by decay and muck in the channel has been a problem, one worsened as more of the channel bottom became exposed during the drought, Knigge said.

"That's been like that for years," he said.

The members of the channel alliance first met earlier this month. Representatives from the Lakeview Villa homeowners association, village hall, Wauconda Township, the Army Corps of Engineers and a Waukegan consulting firm called Integrated Lakes Management are among the participants.

The group's next meeting is set for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 10, at village hall, 101 N. Main St.

Siwieck and his neighbors aren't satisfied merely complaining about the channels' conditions. They want to be part of the solution.

Dredging has been discussed. At one point, some of the homeowners offered to make the Circle Channel deeper with their own shovels and buckets, Siwieck said.

"The commitment on everybody's parts dictates we're going to achieve success," he said. "We do recognize it's going to be an incremental job. But that's the kind of plan we want to get in motion."

Marcus called the alliance's creation "a blessing to all."

He praised Knigge for taking steps to ensure the lake and the three channels are "a safe and wonderful place for all the visitors and families (who) enjoy the lake communities."

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