St. Charles task force seeks more answers before making recommendation on dam’s fate

St. Charles dam, Fox River

Members of the St. Charles Fox River Dam Joint Task Force say they will need answers to at least some questions before they can recommend whether the dam should remain, be removed or be modified.

The task force members still have dozens of questions about the dam’s impact on the environment, the local economy, and the recreational use of the Fox River.

How to get answers ‒ and whether they need answers to every question before making a recommendation to the city council ‒ was discussed June 6.

The Army Corps of Engineers has tentatively recommended removing the dam in St. Charles and eight others on the Fox River.

The task force’s environmental subcommittee wants to determine whether the dam contributes significantly to pollution in the Fox River and whether removing the dam would fix that.

Subcommittee member Conrad Newell said a draft report the Army Corps of Engineers prepared about the river seems to contradict itself when it comes to that point. Newell said he has seen information that the main contributor to the river’s pollution comes from stormwater runoff and other discharges into the river.

Meanwhile, the task force’s economic impact subcommittee submitted 21 questions and suggested the city consider hiring a consultant to help answer them.

Some of the questions are related to the economic value the river provides to adjacent properties, what it would cost for the city to maintain and insure the dam if it takes possession of it, and how many businesses directly leverage the river for daily activities.

In addition, a recreation subcommittee is working on determining what the water-level needs are of various users of the river ‒ be it the St. Charles Park District’s paddlewheel excursion boats, power boats, kayakers, canoeists, fishermen or people whose dogs bound into the river from an upstream dog park.

If the dam is removed, water levels would likely drop, and the river would narrow. The current speed might increase with the narrowing.

The subcommittee wants to do a count of users of the river in the 9-mile stretch through unincorporated Valley View and the city.

Subcommittee member Brian Pohrte said the count might cost about $5,000 and should be done as soon as possible. Water level usually decreases in mid to late summer, he said, resulting in a decrease in the number of people using the river.

Task force chairman Jim Cooke said the subcommittees should return with specific requests at its next meeting on July 11.

The task force also determined Thursday that the dam belongs to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The IDNR agrees with the Army Corps about removal but is willing to turn possession of the dam over to the city.

The task force has three aldermen and two residents representing the city, three representing the park district, and one member from the River Corridor Foundation of St. Charles.

The panel has a deadline of March 1 to issue a report to the city council. It then will be up to the city council to decide what it wants to do.