St. Charles appoints first members of new Dam Task Force

St. Charles dam, Fox River

ST. CHARLES – With the decision on whether to remove the St. Charles Dam from the Fox River looming, St. Charles City Council members appointed the first members of the newly created Dam Task Force at their Feb. 20 meeting.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended removal of all Fox River dams in Kane County after conducting a study last summer, which became a topic of controversy across the county.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources owns the St. Charles Dam, and while representatives told city officials they would not make any decision on its removal without the city’s consent, city officials need to make a tentative decision by October.

The city is expected to take ownership of the dam if it is not removed.

St. Charles City Council members voted to create a task force at the Feb. 5 Government Operations Committee meeting with the goal of assessing the factors surrounding the removal of the dam and informing the council before their decision.

At the recommendation of Mayor Lora Vitek, council members voted unanimously to approve the appointment of the first five members to the city’s new Dam Task Force at the Feb. 20 City Council meeting.

With council approval, Vitek appointed residents Conrad Newell and Brian Pohrte and alderpersons Ryan Bongard, Paul Lencioni and Bryan Wirball to the task force. They will represent the city council.

Vitek gave a brief background on the two residents who were appointed.

Newell has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in fishery science and works as a natural resource and environmental regulations consultant, assisting federal agencies on restoration and other projects.

Pohrte has a bachelor’s degree in science and chemistry and a master’s degree in food science. He is a research chemist at Tate & Lyle and vice president of the St. Charles Canoe Club.

The task force will consist of nine members including the five appointed city council representatives.

The remaining members will be made up of three St. Charles Park District representatives (including at least one elected official and resident) and one representative from the River Corridor Foundation.

Board director John Rabchuck will represent the River Corridor Foundation.

The park district was expected to appoint its representatives at the district board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Task force’s work

Members of the task force will analyze the impact that removing the dam would have environmentally, economically and recreationally.

They will assess the possible effects on commercial and residential development, as well as the health of the river and the possible effects on recreation.

The task force is expected to engage community members, consultants and experts to weigh in on these items.

The task force will hold public meetings to provide updates and collect feedback on the process before making final reports to the City Council and park district no later than March 1, 2025.

Costs incurred by the task force for engaging with consultants would be split between the city and the park district and any expenditures would have to be preapproved by both parties.

The task force is expected to begin meeting in March.