The Montgomery Village Board has responded with a collective “Yes” to a request from the State of Illinois to study the potential removal or modification of the dam on the Fox River south of the Ashland Avenue bridge.
Board members voted unanimously July 26 to adopt a resolution that would allow the village and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to negotiate an agreement that would identify the scope of a dam removal or modification study.
The state constructed the dam in 1967 as part of a public works project championed by late Gov. William Stratton that was intended to make the Fox River navigable for boaters from McHenry County south to Kendall County.
But while the Montgomery dam was completed, a channel along the east bank of the river that was intended to one day serve as a boater bypass was never finished. Instead, a portion of the river dead-ends into the channel adjoining the dam.
Peters Wallers, CEO and president of Engineering Enterprises, Inc. of Sugar Grove, the village’s engineering consultants, said in proposing the agreement with the village the IDNR is seeking to make the dam safe while also trying to improve fish passage and the environmental quality of the river.
By approving the agreement, Wallers said the village would be taking a “first step in a process” in determining how the dam, which is owned by the state, could be removed or modified.
Village President Matt Brolley noted that by approving the agreement, the village officials would be assuring themselves “a seat at the table” as state officials consider the dam’s future.
Board member Theresa Sperling noted that the potential removal or modifications to the dam have come up previously during her tenure on the board and she supports entering into the agreement with the IDNR.
“I would be in favor. I would love to have more information on it. That would be beneficial,” Sperling said.
Board member Dan Gier, however, said he would oppose the state removing the dam.
“I’ve been in town for 35 years and we’ve never had an issue with that dam,” he said.
Instead of removal, Gier said he would like to see the state leave the dam alone but open up the dead-end channel to provide a boat passage point.
“I’ve always thought the solution would be to modify that dead-end (area) because that’s an issue. It’s dead water. It’s stagnant and it stinks,” Gier said.
When questioned by board member Steve Jungermann, Wallers said most experts would support the removal of the dam on environmental grounds.
“It creates a dead zone on the upstream side and it promotes algae blooms and things like that. Overall, I think most folks will tell you elimination of dams make for a healthier river. I think there might be some opposing views because of other things, but from a water quality standpoint it better for the health of the river,” Wallers said.
Wallers added the dam provides no flood control function and its removal would not affect local flood levels.
Board member Doug Marecek expressed hope the IDNR will be agreeable to opening up the channel as a boater bypass.
“It would be a great feature for us as we are trying to create interest in our downtown,” Marecek said.