Batavia City Council approves plan to replace Fox River dam in city’s downtown

The Batavia City Council voted to approve a $13.5 million plan to replace the Fox River dam in downtown Batavia during its Aug. 7 meeting.

The dam will be modified to accommodate a series of rock weirs the full width of the river channel, along with other additions, such as a conveyance channel built in the center of the river for safe passage during low-flow conditions.

The dam extends from the tip of the city’s peninsula north of Batavia City Hall to the east bank of the river.

The dam is considered a hazard and is badly deteriorated. The river current flows around a break in the dam’s eastern end next to the Challenge Building, while water gushes through several fissures in the concrete structure.

On the west side of the peninsula is Depot Pond, flanked by the bike path and the Riverwalk.

The dam creates a pool of water that extends north into Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva. Simply removing the dam without taking any other action would turn Depot Pond into a mudflat and result in a considerably narrower river to the north.

“The big question in the room always seems to be ‘Are we going to preserve the integrity of the Depot Pond?’ ” Mayor Jeffery Schielke said. “From what I can gather, that’s kind of the bottom line; that we will retain the Depot Pond in its kind of configuration and its setting.

“[Depot Pond] has become the historic face of Batavia,” he said.

The $13.5 million plan was “Option B” of five options presented to the city by Hitchcock Design Group, who was contracted in 2021 by the city to assist with developing its portion of the Fox River Corridor, documents show.

Opinions were divided between Option B and Option A, a $4.5 million plan that would see the removal of the Depot Pond dam entirely.

Option B was approved in a vote of 8-4.

Public outreach surveys from Hitchcock ranked the approved plan the highest among all five options, according to documents.

The City Council and Batavia Park District boards met on June 6 to reach a consensus. The city owns the dam, while the park district owns Depot Pond.

“[The park district] board is in favor of this Concept ‘B,’ ” City Administrator Laura Newman said.

The new additions to the dam would benefit local wildlife, water quality and recreation, according to the concept outline.

“The overall project is a master plan for the entire Batavia corridor of the Fox River,” Newman said. “Making a decision about which of these concepts is merely a beginning point so that the rest of the area can be planned. It’s not a commitment that anything in particular will be built.”

Shaw Local reporter Mark Foster contributed to this story.