Should Fox River dams be removed? Expert to weigh in

  • A view of the Fox River dam in St. Charles. Professional engineer Art Malm will discuss the history of the Fox River dams -- how important they were in the past, and what they still do well today -- in a presentation Oct. 19 at the Creek Bend Nature Center in St. Charles.

    A view of the Fox River dam in St. Charles. Professional engineer Art Malm will discuss the history of the Fox River dams -- how important they were in the past, and what they still do well today -- in a presentation Oct. 19 at the Creek Bend Nature Center in St. Charles. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

Posted10/17/2019 10:00 AM

If Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke had his way, the dam along the Fox River in his community would be taken out. It's kind of personal with him.

"I have a tainted view of dams, going back to when I was an active member of the Batavia volunteer fire department," Schielke said.


In carrying out that duty when he was a young man, Schielke and other volunteers were called upon to save a man whose canoe had gone over the Batavia dam.

"It was a successful rescue, but very difficult, and any of us could have been killed," Schielke recalled. "But there are other horror stories, like in Elgin, where they lost three firemen attempting a rescue at the dam."

It's not likely any community could point to its dam and say it has never caused a death or at least an emergency rescue.

The danger to humans is only part of the discussion regarding the dams along the Fox River and those in the Tri-Cities area. The health of the river is also a key, but nothing has really come of the question of whether the dams in our communities should be removed.

"With the state of Illinois and its financial crisis, it is hard to determine if there would be any money for fixing or removing dams," Schielke added.

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Professional engineer Art Malm will shed some light on the topic when he discusses the history of the Fox River dams -- how important they were in the past, and what they still do well today -- in a presentation from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Creek Bend Nature Center in LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve in St. Charles.

Malm is expected to let those in attendance get a good feel for what removal of a dam would look like, based on what occurred when dams were removed from other rivers.

These dams have been around for more than 100 years, initially set up to help power electricity for towns along the river. The Hotel Baker in St. Charles had a power unit near the dam in its earliest years.

But as the dams' purposes began to diminish, those who study river ecosystems began being concerned about their dangers to those using the river for recreation and for fish and overall water quality.


Experts in this field explain that dams do their most damage upstream because they create pools of water that throw off oxygen levels and allow algae to grow.

Most people involved in keeping aquatic life healthy in a river point to the free movement of fish and the number of fish upstream doubling when a dam is removed.

It's hard to say which way the debate on dam removal along the Fox River will go in the coming years. The state surely doesn't have the money to take on that project and, for the most part, it seems area residents aren't demanding dam removals. In fact, many seem to enjoy their raw fury and the unique settings they create.

The south Batavia dam is a local one that has been removed along the Fox River, but we still have dams in north Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles, South Elgin, Aurora, Montgomery, Yorkville and four others north of South Elgin.

For those seeking more information about dam removal, Malm's presentation sounds like the perfect place to do it. The cost is $20 per person, and the center is at 37W700 Dean St. in the forest preserve.

No fear of needle: We went and got our free flu shots at the Geneva Township senior center earlier this week, so we can mark that task off the to-do list.

Considering my age, it's become an important task to complete. And so simple.

It's hard to believe it used to take two nurses to hold me down to get a shot when I was a kid.

I remember my mom saying, "You won't even feel it." She was right, of course, but what does a kid really know other than hating to be in a doctor's office?

In any case, based on what they are saying about the upcoming flu season, I have to include myself among those who highly recommend getting the preventive shot.

A Larrabee resolution: It was good to see the folks involved in restoring the historic Larrabee House on the St. Mark's church campus in Geneva will be able to continue the project without delay.

The Geneva City Council voted to let the project move forward with new siding for the structure, rather than the more expensive and timely alternative of restoring and painting the current siding. Project managers had argued that much of the siding was in total disrepair.

It appears this was a case of the city's historic preservation commission doing what it is supposed to do in questioning the project architects and sticking to the standards they have in place for the historic district. In that role, the commission members were more comfortable denying the request.

And it's also a case in which the city council played the role as the second opinion and, in this case, the voice of reason in letting the project move on without a long delay and far more expense for the parishioners.

Everyone should be fairly pleased with the role each played in what will ultimately be a nice facelift for the house at 327 S. Fourth St.

Scents for stories: If a candle's scent can put you right in the middle of a story, then Hearth and Hammer General in Batavia has done its job properly.

Owners Arian Scholl and Andy Kenney, who identify themselves as "high school sweethearts living in Batavia," are planning a grand opening for Hearth and Hammer General at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at the 319 Main St. location.

The store specializes in wholesale and retail sales of candles, making it a literary candle studio "dedicated to illuminating literature through aromatic storytelling."

We get the sense that book lovers will enjoy having these candles nearby as they take you into another place, along with what you are reading.

For example, the store touts "The Raven" as one of its candles, with the famous "Nevermore" word on the packaging. If I were reading Edgar Allan Poe, this looks like the candle to have.

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