RIVERSIDE, Ill. (CBS) — Usually, when you see politicians gather for ribbon-cutting ceremonies at public projects, it’s to mark their completion or dedication. But Friday, Gov. Pat Quinn and others gathered in a park in west suburban Riverside, along the Des Plaines River, to celebrate the destruction of a dam.
And more such work is on the way.
A series of dams had been built on the Des Plaines since 1827 near Fairbank Road, on the Lyons-Riverside border. Records show that the first supplied power to a saw mill. A later rebuild by entrepreneur George Hofmann in 1908 supplied electricity to a recreational park on the Lyons side of the river. What it did the most, though, was create an open sewer.
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The dam was removed in stages over the summer. Now, said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Col. Jim Schreiner, canoeists and kayakers, fish and wildlife are better off for it.
“Has it been successful? The answer is yes,” Schreiner said. “Initial investigations have concluded that 10 new species of fish have already moved upstream of what was once the Hofmann Dam. There’s been significant habitat improvement upstream, as much as six miles.”
Quinn said the work has improved the water quality of the river for miles on either side, and Cook County Forest Preserve District General Supt. Arnold Randall said it’s something the Forest Preserve District has desired for years.
The state plans to tear out nine more outdated dams in the Chicago area in the coming year. They include Dams 1, 2 and 4, the Dempster Street dam and the Touhy Avenue dam on the Des Plaines River; the Tam O’Shanter (Niles), Chick Evans (Morton Grove) Golf Course and Winnetka Road (Northfield) dams on the north branch of the Chicago River; and the Blackberry Creek dam, along the Fox River in Yorkville.
Quinn said the total cost of the project is a mere $10 million, funded through the state’s infrastructure program. Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller said DNR is stocking the area near the Hofmann Dam with bass to try to stimulate recreational fishing.