Batavia to seek public feedback about removing dam

  • City and Batavia Park District officials are considering what to do about crumbling Challenge Dam on the Fox River.

    City and Batavia Park District officials are considering what to do about crumbling Challenge Dam on the Fox River. Daily Herald file photo

Updated 8/6/2021 4:59 PM

The city and park district in Batavia will seek reaction from residents to five separate options for removing the Challenge Dam from the Fox River.

At a joint meeting of the city council and the park board this week, the Batavia elected officials debated the proposals and how each would affect Depot Pond.


The five alternatives will be presented to the public at an open house event, which is expected to take place in about a month.

However, park board member John Tilmon called two of the options "non-starters" as far as the park district is concerned because they would dramatically alter the pond.

"We've made it pretty clear that Depot Pond is something we want to preserve," Tilmon said. "It's a crucial part of the park district infrastructure ... it's our responsibility to take care of that resource."

One plan would effectively eliminate the pond, replacing the southern portion flanked by the Depot Museum and the Peg Bond Center with open space while introducing native plantings to the northern section, creating a marshy area.

The other proposal also would fill in the southern half of the pond. The northern portion would remain relatively intact but with lower water levels.

Tilmon said every survey of residents performed by the park district shows strong support for maintaining the pond and the district's recreational programming along the Batavia Riverwalk and on the body of water.

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Two proposals would preserve water levels upstream and in the pond.

One would replace the dam with a series of rock weirs that would gradually step down the water level to match the level below the existing dam location.

The second would utilize a portion of the existing dam projecting from the tip of the peninsula while creating a whitewater bypass channel along the eastern shore.

The easternmost section of the dam has already failed. Under current drought conditions, water gushes around the east side of the dam instead of pouring over the top of the structure.

Fifth Ward Alderman Mark Uher was highly critical of that second option, contending it would be unwise to use any part of the crumbling dam, now more than a century old.


Both of those options are the most expensive, each at more than $13 million for the city and park district to cooperatively finance. The options that would involve removing the dam and making major changes to the pond area came in at about $4.3 and $6.6 million.

Under any scenario, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources could be expected to finance the removal of the dam, probably in the $3 million range.

Finally, there is the option which has been under consideration for the past 20 years.

It would involve removing the dam and enclosing the pond by constructing an earthen berm extending north from the tip of the peninsula and then curving to the western bank of the river.

The local cost of this option would be about $4.5 million. Pumps would be installed in the pond to maintain water levels and aeration.

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