Elgin study evaluating city’s water intake options to be ready mid-summer as officials weigh dam removal decision – Chicago Tribune

A study evaluating Elgin’s options when it comes to altering or moving the city’s water intake system in the Fox River, with or without the Kimball Street dam removal, will be ready by mid-summer, Public Works Director Mike Pubentz said.

Speaking at Wednesday night’s Elgin City Council meeting, Pubentz and other city staff members briefed council members on the analysis being done to ensure there is no interruption to the city’s water supply through the Leo Nelson Riverside Water Treatment Plant.

Changes will need to be made regardless of whether the city agrees to allow the dam to be removed, as recommended by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, officials said. A study released last year said the elimination of nine dams along the Fox River would improve the river’s health and ecosystem and would be paid for by the federal agency if approved by the town in which the dam is located.

However, removal of the dam in Elgin would lower the river level and affect the water intake system, which already is having problems that need to be addressed, officials said. Elgin is the only town of the nine with dams that uses the river as its drinking water source.

Engineering Enterprises Inc. has been hired to evaluate the different options and associated costs, Pubentz said.

Among those options is setting up a new intake system or moving the intake pipe to a different part of the river, Water Director Nora Bertram said.

Moving the entire system could cost $18.2 million, she said. “We are in the process of firming up numbers,” Bertram said.

What had been considered the most economical option was reinforcing what’s called a “saddle,” a natural dam located north of the dam. However, a geological study conducted in December found the saddle is made up of silt that will likely erode once the dam is removed, said Tim Holdeman, director of business development for Engineering Enterprises Inc., which conducted the study.

“There is nothing there,” Holdeman said. “No bedrock, no glacial till, nothing hard enough to withstand the erosive power of a storm event with large volumes of water and a high velocity.”

The Army Corps wants Elgin to sign a non-binding letter of intent in the next few months stating the city agrees to the Kimball Street dam removal listed as a federal project, Pubentz said.

A final agreement would not have to be signed until about this time next year, he said.

“(That) would be the time the city would have to (officially) say yes or no,” Pubentz said.

A suggestion made at the last council meeting to ask residents to provide their opinion via a nonbinding election referendum in November was not discussed Wednesday. Some council members were opposed to the idea because of the technical complexity of the issue and the potential for consternation were the council not to follow the voters’ recommendation.

Gloria Casas is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.

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