Issues with Illinois & Michigan Canal raised to Ottawa council

Mayor says council is tackling a number of issues with canal

Issues with the rewatering of the Illinois & Michigan Canal led some Ottawa residents to voice their complaints Tuesday to the City Council.

Helen Jo Reardon, who lives near the canal, said the water has turned into a swamp and she’s hoping it can be cleaned up soon.

“It is as we’ve seen it,” said Mayor Dan Aussem. “We’ve got a number of issues that we’re trying to tackle. We’ve been trying to get some support from the design engineering firm.”

Aussem said the city has received recommendations on chemicals that can be put in the water from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and they’ve located those, but he doesn’t know how quickly that will get done.

He said the city also is looking to acquire a boat with a cutting apparatus that can cut down the weeds growing in the water.

The Illinois and Michigan Canal has had leaks beneath the bridge, which Aussem said has compounded issues because the leaks damaged two of the sump pumps.

“We’re hoping that now that we’ve diverted the sump pumps from the walking path (under the La Salle Street bridge, where the leaks have been occurring), and adding that to the canal that we should be able to get it to where it’s got flow,” Aussem said. “We also talked about taking a couple of boards out to lower the level and cause the algae and everything to stop.”

Aussem said City Engineer Tom Duttlinger will have a report put together for the next City Council meeting that will give a further status update on the canal.

Meanwhile, there will be a ribbon cutting at the canal at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 26. The canal was rewatered and open for recreational use in April.

Ottawa’s stretch of the canal was active from the 1840s through the 1900s. It was emptied in 1933.

A rewatered and usable canal has been a project at least three years in the making for Ottawa, and both the city and the Ottawa Canal Association have expressed interests in using it for recreation activities such as canoeing, fishing and ice skating.