Batavia park, city officials start planning to preserve Depot Pond

  • The Batavia dam, also known as Challenge Dam because of its proximity to the former Challenge Wind Mill and Feed Mill Company.

    The Batavia dam, also known as Challenge Dam because of its proximity to the former Challenge Wind Mill and Feed Mill Company. Daily Herald file photo, 2008

  • People enjoy paddleboat rides on Depot Pond in Batavia. Park district and city officials Tuesday said it is time to start planning how to preserve the pond, in case a nearby dam is removed or suffers a breach.

    People enjoy paddleboat rides on Depot Pond in Batavia. Park district and city officials Tuesday said it is time to start planning how to preserve the pond, in case a nearby dam is removed or suffers a breach. Daily Herald file photo, 2013

 
 
Posted6/1/2016 5:36 AM

It's time to start planning to separate Depot Pond from the Fox River, Batavia Park District and city officials agreed Tuesday night during a joint meeting of aldermen and park commissioners.

That way, the two agencies will be prepared for the day the dam north of it either crumbles or is removed, and the river level drops by an expected 12 inches. Because if the two are still connected, Depot Pond would drain into the river.

 

"Every survey (of residents) we've done, this is our No. 1 park," parks commissioner John Tilmon said of Depot Pond and the Riverwalk, both on North Island Avenue. So it has to be protected in its current form, he said.

The park board and the aldermen directed city administrator Bill McGrath and park executive director Alison Niemela to review dam-removal studies done in the early- to mid-2000s, and prepare a presentation for another joint meeting, likely to take place in about a month.

Then the park board and the council can decide whether to hire engineers and other experts to make an updated plan; figure out costs; and decide who should pay for the work.

One possibility is putting in an earthen berm at the north end of the pond area. Water could be pumped in from the river or from a well.

The man-made pond also needs to have silt removed, no matter what, according to park board President Pat Callahan.

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The run-of-the-river lowhead dam was built in 1911 to generate power for factories. In 1975, a large chunk of it on the eastern edge washed away. Before the breach was repaired, the water level in Depot Pond dropped to a depth of 18 inches, Mayor Jeff Schielke said.

Depot Pond was dredged in the 1990s. The Riverwalk was built next to it. The park district's Depot Museum is on the southwest edge. The park has become a central gathering place for community activities, including concerts and festivals.

Figuring out what to do about the rest of the river area, including whether to take the dam out or let it continue to deteriorate, is a secondary priority. Callahan said the park district hasn't offered much river-oriented programming due to a lack of access to the river's banks.

The state, which has custody of the river, favors removing the dam due to environmental and safety concerns. State and city officials dispute who actually owns the dam -- the city says the state, the state says 'no.'

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