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Dam Safety Law Heats Up

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I'm calling around to get some further information on what transpired at the meeting.

I spoke with the IPC and various people in government months ago, but there was little to be done while it was in JCAR.


Here is Bob Maciulis' article on the issue:


June 16, 2009




The dam debate first focused on the removal of dams throughout the course of the Fox and other rivers in Illinois. The intention was to restore their health.


The most common reason cited for the removal of dams was that it prevented sediment and pollution from being flushed from the river during high water.


More recently, the debate expanded to include accidents ostensibly caused by dams. Tragic loss of life at the dam in Yorkville and several others at the dam in Wilmington on the Kankakee River spawned proposed legislation about signage and access near dams on Illinois rivers.


The proposed rules and regulations for the Dam Safety Law will be considered at the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) meeting on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at the Thompson Center in Chicago (16th floor, Room 503).


Although public testimony will not be allowed, conservation and recreation organizations planned to attend the meeting. Nothing catches politicians' attention as quickly as a strong turnout by constituents.


Among the groups concerned that the proposed legislation will restrict its legal access to rivers like the Fox is the Illinois Paddling Council.


"The rules will make landowners responsible for acquiring, installing and maintaining the many signs that are in the plan," said Sigrid H. Pilgrim, director with the Illinois Paddling Council. "If passed, (the legislation) also will close many portages because of the proposed 300-foot exclusion zone above a dam and a 50-foot exclusion zone below -- essentially closing off many portages on the Fox and many other affected rivers. If paddlers cannot use the Fox River to recreate, it could have significant economic consequences also on local businesses."


A seven-minute video had been prepared for showing at the public hearing. Pilgrim urges anyone concerned with access to rivers to watch it on Youtube at



"The law," Pilgrim said, "as well as the proposed rules, make no provision for education, shift liability for acquisition, installation, and maintenance of signage at the dams to the landowners around it, and criminalizes anyone using the existing portages within the exclusion zone by making the act a class A misdemeanor, putting paddlers, who for years have used these portages in the same category as someone engaged in prostitution, criminal sexual abuse and the like.


"We understand the reason for the passage of the dam safety law," Pilgrim added. "Who could not resist a young daughter's plea who has just lost her father who reportedly was distracted and not aware until the very last minute that we was going to go over a dam despite existing warning signs?


"The accident at the Kankakee did not even involve a boater. Legislation based on emotion does not result in the best laws to protect citizens. We fear, that if these rules go into effect, more people likely will have accidents at dams. If existing portages are closed, and since the law and rules as written make no provision for alternative portages, paddlers may well chose to run the dams, thus increasing the likelihood of accidents."

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