What to know about the Fox River dam removals

Here’s what Kane County residents need to know about the proposed changes to the Fox River

The Carpentersville Dam on the Fox River will be removed with the help of a $2 million state grant this year.

Based on the findings of a recent study, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is recommending removal of all nine Fox River dams in Kane County from the Carpentersville Dam to the Montgomery Dam in order to restore the river’s natural wildlife habitat and improve water quality.

The Army Corps conducted the Fox River Habitat and Connectivity Study as part of the Illinois River Basin Restoration Program, which was approved by congress in 2000. The study findings will be reported to congress, and the decision to remove the dams will be up to each municipalities locally elected officials.

Some Kane County residents have expressed concerns that the removals will result in lowered water levels, loss of water recreation and related commerce, and decreasing property values. Removal of the dams is estimated to cost a total of $14,135,000.

What are the reasons to remove the dams

• Environmental benefits: According to the study, removal of the dams is expected to restore the river’s connectivity, improving the habitats of many species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the river, as well as improve the water quality.

• Recreation: It is indicated in the study that small boats, kayaks and canoes will have access to longer stretches of the river with a better rate of flow. The restoration of aquatic habitats is also expected to result in better fishing.

• Safety: Army Corps representatives said removing the dams would negate the drowning risk associated with dams and would mitigate flood risks in areas upstream from the dams.

• Savings: Army Corps representatives say the removal of the dams will be a cost saving measure, long-term, as there will be no future operations or maintenance required after removal.

What are the reasons not to remove the dams

• Water Level: Residents along the Fox River are worried that the lower water levels and receding river will expose an eyesore along the river’s banks, lowering property values and hurting river-related commerce.

• Recreation: The lower water level and increased flow will be detrimental to people who have larger boats and those who use the river for flat water recreation like jet-skiing, water skiing and wake boarding.

• Safety: Though the flood risk created by dams would be mitigated, residents have raised concerns that the more rapid flow of water would create a new safety concern. Another health concern raised was the possibility that the receding water would reveal a riverbed containing toxic contaminants left from a century of industry along the river.

• Beauty: While Army Corps representatives claim the removal of the dams will lead to the beautification of the river and the surrounding wildlife, residents have asserted that the newly revealed banks would be a significant downgrade.

Estimated costs

Carpentersville Dam - $1,351,000

• Kimball Street Dam - $1,423,000

• South Elgin Dam - $1,366,000

St. Charles Dam - $1,293,000

Geneva Dam - $1,469,000

Batavia Dam - $1,450,000

• North Aurora Dam - $1,291,000

Aurora Dam(s) - $1,917,000

• Montgomery Dam - $1,282,000

• Total - $14,135,000

Current Phase of the Plan

• The Army Corps’ Fox River Habitat and Connectivity Study is in its public review period as the Corps holds public meetings, gives presentations to inform the public, and collects impact statements from residents.

• The Army Corp’s held three meetings in Kane County from Sept. 18-20, which were attended by hundreds of residents who voiced their opinions and concerns.

• The public comment period will end Nov. 6.

• Residents can submit comments and concerns by email to Fox-River-Study@usace.army.mil or by mail to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District, ATTN: Planning, 231 S. LaSalle, St., Ste. 1500, Chicago.

What are the next steps

• From here, the Army Corps will use public responses to form their recommended plan before proposing it to congress. The following dates are projections that will depend upon individual municipalities’ approval timelines.

• The Army Corps expects to receive tentative approval of the feasibility report in January 2025, execute project partnership agreements by April 2025 and finalize construction plans and specifications by October 2026.

• Construction contracts are projected to be awarded in January 2027 with the dam removals completed by 2030.