ILMA Phragmites POD Upcoming

The Illinois Lakes Management Association (ILMA) will be hosting another Point of Discussion (POD) at Emmett’s Ale House in Palatine, IL on November 9th at 7:00PM.  The phragmites issue in northeastern Illinois as well as areas throughout the midwest has become a critical issue.  This very destructive invasive will be reviewed and discussion will be led by Mr. Paul Bollinger of Bollinger Environmental, Inc. (BEI).  Paul has been in the environmental consulting field for over a decade and has liaised on projects for local and regional agencies.

FYI – The presentation has been uploaded to the Media Center as of 11/15/2017.

Join us for a lively discussion at Emmett’s and enjoy a few crafts brews.  Emmett’s Ale House is Located at:

110 North Brockway Street
Palatine, Illinois 60067

Phone: 847-359-1533

https://www.emmettsbrewingco.com/

 

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ILMA to begin survey process

The Illinois Lakes Management Association (ILMA) is in a constant process of trying to better understand the needs of it constituency: lake managers & their associated groups, the lake-stakeholder decision making process, watershed group function, and ILMA’s role in an advisory capacity.  Although this is a role ILMA has provided since inception of the association, the course of these surveys is to drill down deeper into the overall cross section of lake & surface water users and dissect the results top to bottom.  This can help ILMA better understand and serve both individuals and groups with educational content from presentations, seminars and workshops.

Soliciting information is tough for any group.  Response rate for typical surveys is often less than 25% and can often be as low as 10% depending on the target audience.  At any rate, the information is necessary for ILMA to continually provide valuable information and determine who is receiving the information and how it is being used.

In 2014, the ILMA Board of Directors (Directors) attempted an open forum for discussion at their annual conference in DeKalb as an attempt to receive “fresh material” or ideas from attendees of the conference.  The forum constituted a session within the conference that could be attended by anyone at the conference including vendors and industry experts.  Upon an open request for topical input, ILMA direction, or general questions, a roomful of nearly 100 individuals ranging from lake and industry experts to general lake property owners, not one unprompted response was provided.  Because of this, it is uncertain that if such solicitation of information is best approached in isolated conditions or in smaller groups.

At this time ILMA will be focusing on reaching out to constituent groups such as those listed above; however an additional focus is warranted to better serve the total user base.  Most lake groups consist of members of varying education or participation levels.  Some are extremely dedicated, including those who have invested personal time to expand their understanding of the lake and watershed environment.  This person may often lead the group while the remain board or stakeholder membership may consist of local residents simply looking to lend a helping hand.  With this survey ILMA intends to extend into this secondary group and explore not only group leaders but the entirety of the membership that make up these groups.

Test survey groups will be explored later this month with representative pilot surveys and the results and surveys will be refined as the work progresses.  The initial surveys will likely be hand or email distributed to help improve effectiveness.  Subsequent delivery of surveys will very in presentation from what is suggested above to possible internet delivery.  Test Group 1A is the Tower Lakes Improvement Association (TLIA) and Bangs Lake Advisory Committee (BLAC) of Tower Lakes and Wauconda, respectively.

~p0sted by Admin

Lake Count WMB Grants Available

On September 12th, the Lake County Stormwater Management Comission (SMC) announced the availability of funding of another round of their Watershed Management Board (WNB) Grants.  These have been available on a yearly cycle.  The official announcement can be located here:

https://www.lakecountyil.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=923

This grant cycle includes another round of their Watershed Management Assistance Grants (WMAG) routinely focused for capacity building of watershed protection groups.

The grants have a cost cap upwards of 20K and can be reduced downward from that value depending on the competition of other applicants and merit of the provided application.  One of the main objectives of these grants is to identify partnerships, so a good application should include a thorough investigation into who may all benefit from the project and an emphasis through letters of support when available.

The grants are separated by one of the four main watersheds identified in Lake County, Illinois; the Fox River, The Des Plaines River, the North Branch of the Chicago River, or Lake Michigan.  These grants are significant because they can defray costs of smaller projects; specifically those for schools, municipalities, or even individual property owners who typically have limited funds.  These are great for shoreline restoration and pond retrofits.

There is a much more thorough breakdown of the application process located on the link provided above.  Grant applications are due on the 6th of October and do require signature from a WMB representative identified in the submittal packet.

We hope to have a more complete Blog Post regarding grants later in the year.

Best of Luch from IllinoisLakes and the Illinois Lakes Management Association (ILMA)!

~p0sted by Admin

Watershed Spotlight: 9 Lakes Watershed (Lake & McHenry Co., IL)

Welcome to our first watershed spotlight Blog post!  I would first like to do a shout out to the recently retired Patty Werner of the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission (LCSMC).  Her enduring watershed work in Lake County, IL has had a lasting impression far beyond the county borders and has greatly influenced many of us to work harder will limited resources and really push to improve the stakeholder process.  The IllinoisLakes Blog wishes her the best in her retirement.

With the IllinoisLakes Blog being an outreach component tool of the Illinois Lakes Management Association (ILMA), there will always be a focus on lakes directly; however our lakes our driven by the landscape processes within the watershed which is also a key concern of ILMA.  What happens in the lakes of Illinois and any other lake on the face of our planet is heavily driven by what is happening in the watershed.  Some of these things are taking place right at the shoreline and some miles away.  The end result is that the lake is the basket that catches it all, holds it or modifies it, and then sends it downstream.

While a brief introduction to the watershed concept may be in order here, it is not the sole directive of this blog post and for clarity we may need to do a follow up post to close that loophole.  In the meantime we suggest a 90 second primer here.  Simple youtube video distilling the concept.  We ultimately see the watershed byproducts in our lakes and managing the end result in the lake, so why not control the source?  More on that later.

On to the 9 Lakes Watershed, a culmination of the 9 Lakes Watershed Plan.  The watershed group originally sprung from the formation of the 4 Lakes Initiative, a meeting of local lake groups forming to discuss watershed approaches which have significant impacts on in-lake processes.  The group had been meeting for nearly two years, when a chance meeting with representatives of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) at a presentation provided to the Fox River Ecosystem Partnership (FREP), met and discussed a partnership to include the totality of 9 lakes bordering on common watersheds in western Lake/eastern McHenry County.  We apologize for the numerous acronyms and links above.

As the name suggests, the ground-floor stakeholder group consists of 9 lakes (Lake Fairview, Slocum Lake, Bangs Lake, Lake Napa Suwe, Tower Lakes, Lake Barrington, Timber Lake, Island Lake, and Woodland Lake).  The planning process also includes all the interconnected waterways such as creeks and streams and the three outlets to the Fox River.  Each of these groups has faced unique challenges in maintaining their perspective lakes, none necessarily more important than the other.  The planning group also includes all of the perspective communities and agencies that have a collective geographic presence within the watershed.  Villages include Island Lake, Wauconda, Port Barrington, Volo, Hawthorn Woods, Lake Barrington, Tower Lakes, and Unincorporated portions of Lake and McHenry Counties, IL.

The two year extended planning process took place from 2012 through 2014 including a series of formal presentations, facility and lake tours, stakeholder collaboration to identify potential in-lake and watershed landscape issues to be indoctrinated within the 9 Lakes Watershed-Based Plan.  Identifying projects within the watershed plan prioritizes them for EPA funding through the Agency’s 319 Program.  The identified projects can all be seen on the map provided on the 4 Lakes Initiative homepage (previously linked).  The projects range from topics such as shoreline restoration, streambank stabilization, landscape improvements, green infrastructure, and stormwater retrofits to name a few.

The plan also does a token job at identifying the sources of in-lake pollution, be it internal cycling of materials or landscape driven sources.  For example, several of the lakes within the planning area have identified phosphorus as a significant pollutant source (often referred to as “impairment”) within the 9 Lakes Watershed-Based Plan.  Now is the problem already in the lake and needs to be addressed in the lake or is it a landscape based issue that needs to be addressed from a runoff standpoint?  Is it unwise to spend money on in-lake improvements for phosphorus abatement if the source is coming from outside the lake.  These are important factors when the solutions are not cheap.  Phosphorus is just one example of several potential impairments listed within the plan.

The plan also makes an attempt to prioritize these objectives.  Not every project benefits the watershed or inherent downstream water resources in the same way.  Projects most likely to get funded include those which identify multiple partners and entities that will benefit from a successful outcome.  This includes identifying how those partners will continue to manage and maintain the outcome of the project in the future to make sure there is a lasting benefit.

What types of projects were identified in the plans?  Section 3.2 of the plan provides a breakdown of projects by both water body and municipal entity, making it easier to identify potential partners in pursuing a grant based project.  While it can be a great adventure to pursue a grant on your own, it may be worth it to contact someone with experience to make the process a little more streamlined and move the process along, including the documentation process, meeting the timelines and helping identify potential partners from the start.

There are numerous restoration based projects identified within the plan directly tied to shorelines and streambanks.  While their are other in-lake projects identified, it may become increasingly difficult smaller projects without being able to quantify the aggregate benefit.

Slocum Lake is one lake previously discussed within the IllinoisLakes Blog.  We hope to feature some of the other lakes in the near future.  No one lake is perfect, although some exhibit many more water quality related issues than others.  Bangs Lake is the only lake that provides public access.  Some of the lakes may be accessible if you are willing to make the appropriate contacts.

The overarching them to the watershed plan is essentially outreach & education.  Providing citizens and stakeholders and opportunity to voice their opinion (good & bad) and provide educational components in an unimposing and digestible environment.  Watershed planning is somewhat universally similar in the methodology employed to complete each individual plan however the water bodies differ and therefore the road map created in each plan is different.  The template that the road map is created from has been set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is somewhat specific to Illinois, although the format is slowly becoming indoctrinated nationally.

The 9 Lakes Watershed-Based Plan is unique in several ways.  If you compare it to the bulk of many other watershed plans in Lake County or Northeast Illinois, their is a specific focus on lakes, whereas this is typically a stream or creek in-focus.  Additionally there are 3 specific outfall points into the Fox River from each of 3 connected lake to lake systems.  Timber Lake, Tower Lakes, and Lake Barrington represent one system.  Bangs Lake and Slocum Lake represent yet another system, and yet Lake Napa Suwe and Island Lake represent another independent system.  The other remaining lakes are small and interspersed among those three systems.

Specific to a plan of this nature, the watersheds are acknowledged as a whole, but also as independent water bodies (lakes) that have identified improvement projects built into the plan as well.  We recommend that if you have never been part of the process or seen a planning document of this nature, start with the Executive Summary and introduction to get a grasp of the bigger picture before diving in.  We hope to have an introductory Blog Post regarding Watershed Planning in general soon.

~p0sted by Admin 

10 Things You Can Do to Know Your Lake Better

It is important that we step back and consider the group of individuals that are on the fence when it comes to lakes.  There is obviously a dedicated group of individuals that help care for and are directly connected to the management of a water body, but many individuals who are lake or stream side property holders or enthusiasts either feel disengaged or not intelligent enough to become actively engaged with day to day activities.  At the Illinois Lakes Management Association (ILMA), our primary sponsor of the IllinoisLakes Blog we feel “the more the merrier”.

In the context of the title “your lake” it may reference a body of water you currently live on, frequent, or may mean several lakes.  Getting engaged IS important as it helps set directives for your organization and may help them better allocate future funding.  In the case of public or quasi-public lakes it may have the ability to influence outside funding sources.  Perhaps the list below can be used to help assist in influencing involvement as well or better manage overall.  Without further ado:

  1. Seek out your lake management association if you have one 🙂 – to some this is great place to start.  Some groups operate better than others, but observing the initial input and back and forth conversation will allow you to better understand what issues are involved in the overall management of the lake and where your piece of the pie might fit in.
  2. Enjoy some simple ecology.  The water is the source of all life and habitat to so many different species from plants to insects, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.  So many of these things rely on each other to survive, it will make you think twice about reducing shoreline habitat to bulkheads and seawalls which support places for various young fish and other insects to forage.
  3. Find the lake gage.  Hydrology impacts how the lake or water body elevations fluctuate from time to time.  Seeing how the water responds to certain amounts of rainfall is fun.  Precipitation is needed to move stagnant water around from time to time (affecting residence time), so it is an important element in the success of the lake or waterbody.
  4. Get to know the “ins and outs” of the system, literally.  People tend to see these areas as trouble areas but they are extremely useful indicators for monitoring conditions.  If the water coming into the lake is “dirtier” than the water leaving your lake then your lake is soaking up the difference.  If it’s the other way around than you may have an internal cycling problem.  Simple observations can mean a lot.  How to do this with minimal cost may be a future topic of discussion.
  5. Search for documentation regarding your lake.  What seems somewhat tedious in the world of lake management is the oblivious nature at which people base their decisions.  The year is 2017 and there is much more literature out there about lakes and most likely something about your lake!  The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has been under mandate by the Clean Water Act (CWA) to study the watersheds draining to the majority of our streams and lakes and as such has already started a dialogue.  Those of you living in Lake County are likely aware of the fantastic background work completed by the Health Department’s Lake Management Unit.  There are other sources out there in the form of watershed plans as well.  These may all identify issues that can further help you understand your lake.
  6. Have a cold one.  So many of us ignore the lake once the ice cap goes on but there are observations to be made during the winter and colder months as well.  Some trouble areas can be more visible once the vegetation dies back.  This is a great time to do some ground truthing.
  7. Eye in the sky.  If you’ve never taken a detailed look at the area around your lake via aerial photography it’s worth a look.  Looking at various land use and road patterns may lead you to questions as to “how much chloride is coming of that road?”  “Is that a problem?”
  8. Where do those pipes come from?  Many people see water draining from phantom pipes into the lake or stream and think nothing of it.  These pipes serve a purpose and that is to drain water away from somewhere else and keep people reasonably safe from flooding.  The unintended consequence however is that materials other than water comes along for the ride.
  9. Learn the difference between algae and plants.  Reason:  While some animals do consume algae, having it in your lake is usually an indicator of something that is above it natural range.  A little algae is certainly normal but with today’s concerns over potentially harmful algae strains it is time to start reconsidering why the algae may be there in the first place.
  10. Look at the plants in your lake.  Get to know them.  The terms native and invasive are important to know.  If your lake is encumbered by large amounts of invasive species it can be tough for the native species to compete.  The invasive plants have limited end users and by displacing native species they complicate the food web for fish, amphibians, and invertebrates.

~p0sted by Admin

Free ILMA POD offered on Manual Weed Removal

The Illinois Lakes Management Association (ILMA) will host another one of their FREE Point of Discussion (POD) sessions on Wednesday June 28th, from 6:30 – 7:30 at Pebble Beach Park on Gages Lake, 33399 N Sears Blvd, in Grayslake (Wildwood).  The focus of the POD will be manual weed removal.  Post POD discussion and refreshments will be available at Bake’s Pub & Grill nearby.  

More information to follow.

Let’s Talk About Dams Part 2

Part 1 of this Blog post visited dams from a sort of historical perspective as well as provided a glimpse of how dams are viewed and permitted from a regulatory perspective, particularly in the Midwest and the State of Illinois.  It really is a “cliff notes” version of that information as a whole and in any case you should reference the embedded links for more in-depth reading or directly consult an expert.

In the second part of this blog discussion article, the focus will shift more to a water quality slant, with how dams can be viewed as an impact and the subsequent trend toward dam removal.  Although there is no question that dams alter the natural flow regimes of rivers and streams, they are also viewed as historical and are revered by some fishermen and the general public.  Removing dams is at times controversial, and many times expensive to a point where there is little incentive for the owner of said dam to go through the process.

Most certainly there is a distinctive difference between dams on already impounded waters (lakes, ponds, and reservoirs) versus rivers and other moving waters.  While many plants and organisms may be found in both habitats, they may prefer one over the other, for example largemouth bass may prefer impounded waters whereas trout may be more partial to river systems.  This is likely to be partially tied to the conditions that may exist in those two particular environments.  The biggest issue associated with dams is the alteration of riverine systems to an impounded state where the internal ecology of the stream starts to function more like a lake in areas of that stream.  This obviously creates an environment where organisms better suited for those habitats begin to better compete and potentially out-compete riverine species.

There is really nowhere better to see an example of this scenario at play than right in our own back yard.  The Fox River south of the Chain O’ Lakes demonstrates many of these very ecological indicators.  While the Fox Waterway Agency (FWA) maintains the Fox River from the Wisconsin border to the Algonquin Dam, other groups have been working hard to study the group while others work as stewards of the river.  One such group, the Fox River Study Group, has worked hard to study the chemistry of the river within Illinois starting below the Chain O’ Lakes down to the Yorkville area.  They have made these very same observations through their studies.  Although these observations have been made, the traction to remove even low-head dams on the Fox River in Illinois has been slow, for many of the same reasons provided earlier in this post.

On the reverse side of the coin is the Des Plaines River which has seen some success in dam removals throughout the past 10 years.  Reports appear to have been good at least from a fishing standpoint.  We have not heard much on the negativity side of things, outside of some navigability with stream speeds and depth in spots.  If that is the worst thing to come from the dam removal process, then it looks like it is well worth it.

Along with the ecological changes that are briefly discussed above, there is a chemical alteration that is tied to changes that take place immediately upstream and downstream of the formal dam structure.  Streams have a natural appetite for sediments; however the downstream fate of the sediment is much different in a stream system that has incurred the installation of structures intended to slow, divert, or impound water.  These structures can serve a source of ultimate deposition and initial source of stream bed scour.  While the day to day function of dams seems harmless enough, the the power of falling water cannot be overstated.  This very premise is relied upon as a viable source of energy to this day.  Now the remaining several thousand dams across the country may have not been instituted for the purpose of hydroelectric generation, but many still have the capability to generate enormous amounts of energy which is released as scour upon the downstream stream bed.  The amount released is dependent upon the elevation of the dam crest and the amount of flow going over the top which can be a function of rain or a scheduled man-made release from upstream or a combination of both.

Immediately upstream of the dam the exact opposite function is occurring.  Water tends to stagnate, leaving a sediment deposition zone.  These zones have limited space of course and over time a sort of baseflow equilibrium is reached with the stream.  Equilibrium can be disrupted at times of high flow as well.  This is caused by the upwelling of materials immediately upstream as water must contract to release over the spillway.  This will create space upstream of the dam where sediment can once again deposit and the cycle repeats itself.

Keep in mind that within a stream, river or any other body of moving water, just like a lake there is ongoing chemical changes taking place constantly.  This does not end at the sediment surface.  Underneath the sediment-water interface there is all kinds of biological and chemical activity.  We often see the results of this activity in both lakes and streams when we see gas released as bubbles to the surface.  Depending on storm surge or seasonal flood flow(s), these constituents can be dislodged en masse, creating pockets of biological oxygen demand (BOD) downstream or make noticeable  water chemistry change detrimental to the existing fish or invertebrate communities.

The above information is of course simplified to make this blog readable.  American Rivers has some great online documentation which discusses these points and further relays the benefits of restoring a riverine community.  On a local basis both the FRSG (link above) and the DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup (DRSCW) have done independent work on their respective waters.  These workgroups appear to be a preferred model in which Illinois EPA (IEPA) hopes to further address point source pollution.

Based on the materials provided in the IllinoisLakes Blog Part I & II postings, it would appear that there is ample material to support the removal of dams.  The question may further be why is it so hard to remove them?  The process is quite onerous, at least in Illinois it can be.  As of right now the funding to inspect, maintain, and possibly remove a dam all falls on the owner of that dam.  Creative owners may be able to partner on a grant to remove as part of a restoration package, but it does not alleviate them from the formal process of removal initiated by the State of Illinois.  These can include studies of impact which typically cannot be recovered through the typical grant process.  Other states do have revenue sources in place with the sole purpose of assisting in the removal and modification of dams.

This sums up the IllinoisLakes Blog Part 2 take on dams.  We hope you found it informational and enjoyable.  Remember the IllinoisLakes Blog is sponsored by the Illinois Lakes Management Association (ILMA).  If you are interested in lakes like we are please visit our webpage for more information or visit us on Facebook or any one of our numerous public POD sessions.

~p0sted by Admin

 

Turbid Illinois Launches Season 3

The week of May 22nd marks the official start of field data collection for Turbid Illinois Season 3.  Turbid Illinois is an Illinois Lakes Management Association (ILMA) sponsored program which encourages self-exploration of our waters and the science that drives our water quality conditions.  The program is also partly supported through the Tower lakes Drain Partnership, which provided the initial sample sites.  This is as stands a completely 100% volunteer driven process.  Below is a few commonly asked questions about Turbid Illinois.

What is Turbid Illinois?

Turbid Illinois (TI) is a volunteer, stakeholder driven, citizen science initiative based off of similar citizen-based groups but with a much narrower focus.  Instead of periodic testing needing a lump sum time investment, the protocol attempts to minimize the time investment to achieve data replication and statistically viable sets of data points.  This allows the data to be used for trend and baseline analysis over a much shorter period of time.

How might this be important to me?

The idea surrounding this project is the simplified concept of “system in vs system out”.  Looking at water clarity at two geographically different points along a water body.  The original concept around TI was investigating daily baseline flow into and out of lakes and reservoirs to determine if the water body was serving to capture material or deliver downstream as a source.  Due to stakeholder interest we have included numerous stream or creek sample points throughout the watershed.  When we see dirty water we may be able to define it as a “load”.  Defining a baseline load will better determine when pulses or heavier watershed loads are affecting our lake and stream systems.  What are the possible reasons?

What equipment do I need?  Is it expensive?

One major goal of this project is to try and put some science in everyone’s hands without applying a price tag that inhibits that very concept.  You should have the following materials at your disposal every time you enter the field to pull samples.

  • 1 water bottle per sample site.  General drinking water bottle will work.
  • Device for measuring depth of water from water surface to water body bed.  I use a folding tape.
  • flashlight or suitable device if you sample late or very early morning.
  • boots if you plan on being in the water, although we recommend staying out of the water if possible
  • Bug spray is sometimes beneficial depending on how bad the spot is

While a few participants have taken it upon themselves to acquire their own means to process turbidity samples we are more than happy to process them for you.  Upon field collection store in a cold place or freeze and we will arrange a pick up for final processing.  If you process your own the data is shared.

I am just grabbing water?  Seems simple enough, is it?

Yes and no.  Physically speaking and in concept the process is very easy, however it is important to be consistent to ensure uniformity of samples.  Samples should strive to be taken at or as near as possible to the same location.  The collection process should be taken in a matter than best represents a typical sample is taken time and time again.  This ensures that the data holds value.  Should you chose to enter the water to sample you must do your best to ensure stream or lake bed materials do not enter your sample.  Once you have established a system of consistent collection, the process is extremely simple and your field time at each site will likely only be a few minutes.

What do we do after sample collection?

Coordinate with program director who you are already in contact with to coordinate pickup for turbidity analysis.  Typically samples should be stored as frozen unless the transfer is same day.  Even if the turnover time is short the sample should be refrigerated to minimize the decomposition of organic material which may slightly skew the final number.  Along these lines, anticipate a rotation of bottles if necessary to allow time for the processing to return bottles to you.

Where should I sample?

This is up to you!  Just a few things to consider.  You should never go onto private property without sufficient permission(s).  In this regard it is sometimes best to work within known public properties such as Village owned parcels or parks.  Avoid sampling areas near pipes, heavily eroded banks, very fast moving water, or areas that are unsafe to complete the sample process.

What happens to the data?

Right now the information is being built into a database repository with the hopes it will be useful for future purposes.  Essentially trend analysis of base water quality in the water bodies sampled.  TI strives to produce an annual document debriefing any significant findings.  Year 1 document is located here:

https://sites.google.com/site/4lakesinitiative/resource-center

Look for Turbid IL Master document.  Year 2 should be out soon.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact current program lead, Brian Valleskey at:

cruiserx43@gmail.com

or any standing IMLA officers or directors.  The list can be located at:

https://www.ilma-lakes.org/officers

 

 

Let’s Talk about Dams Part 1

Fresh off a recent presentation to the Spring Creek/ Flint Creek Watershed Partnership, I thought it might be a good time to post to the Illinois Lakes Blog regarding the subject.  Regardless if you are for or against them there is no doubt that dams are another set of aging infrastructure within the United States and there is little or no money directly available to remove or repair (more specifically public structures), leaving the unenviable “wait and see” circumstance.  This is Part 1 of a 2-part posting.

The oldest “registered”dam in the State of IL is the Fordham Dam in Rockford, on the Rock River listed as completed in 1852, although there are several on the Fox that are believed to be older with no official dates to confer.  The largest dam in the U.S. is the Oroville Dam which was the center of attention earlier this year when 180,000 people were evacuated downstream of the dam due to the potential threat of dam breach in February:  http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/05/18/oroville-dam-timeline-100-days-of-drama/.  There are an estimated 75,000 dams impounding 600,000 miles of river or about 17% of rivers in the nation.  7% of the nations total energy budget is still driven by hydroelectric power.

What the above total does not account for are the lesser dams which may not even appear as a dam to the unknowing eye.  In the State of Illinois along, estimates range in number of some 5,000  to 10,000 dams which fit this criteria.  The numbers range because the vast majority of dams remain unregistered.  Dams vary greatly in function and size, from impounding of reservoirs for stormwater management to impounding a lake for the purpose of hydroelectric power generation.

The State of Illinois Dam Safety Program officially began in 1980 as Public Act 91-1062.  This was briefly amended in 1983 and has remained largely intact as such to this day.  The program essentially classifies dams based on the perception of risk and potential for downstream damage, property loss, and loss of life.  This allows for a means to require individuals, corporations, governmental agencies, etc to inspect and maintain their dams.  The full Illinois Dam Safety Program can be viewed in greater detail here:  https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/WaterResources/Pages/DamSafetyProgram.aspx.

To keep this blog article somewhat relevant to lakes it may be best to keep the discussion centered around the impoundment of lakes and streams.  Within this context, a general  understanding of the basic safety guidelines and the possible environmental impacts of run of the river dams is useful.  Dams like anything else require maintenance.  Unlike infrastructure like roads and sanitary sewer they are unfortunately an afterthought to owners without the prodding of regulatory agencies.  The problem is that to many dam owners, the risk of eventual failure and downstream impact is minor in comparison to the economic impact of recurring maintenance.

To this end all registered dams must undergo a schedule of recurring inspection that is based on the assessed risk associated with the dam failure impact.  This is not necessarily unique to the state of Illinois.  The inspection must be photo documented and approved to meet the requirements of the state’s inspection protocol.  Any deficiencies are to be documented and slated to an improvement schedule also approved by the state.

While ILMA has been unable to receive a direct answer from the state regarding where the liability rests for a failure on an unregistered dam, insurance companies may opt to have dams inspected to determine rates for HOA’s, lake associations, lake districts, or other agencies who maintain or own them.  There appears to be a fine line between wanting to inspect on your own schedule or giving the state the jurisdiction to set the schedule.  It is quite possible that their are non-registered dams that undergo no inspection at all and also possible that landowners have no idea that a possible structure on their proper may qualify as a dam, and the inherent risk that may be associated with it.

By it’s very definition a dam can have quite a variable meaning.  Based on communication with State of Illinois Dams Division Head Paul Maurer, a dam is basically anything that impounds water, more from an artificial sense (manmade vs natural).  From a consulting standpoint approximately 1/3 of the dams that I have been personally involved with from a repair or inspection standpoint would be classified as a dam and were unregistered.  The owner either inherited the structure or it has always been unregistered and the owner has had no interest in getting it registered.  In the event that the structure should need repair, the registration may take place as part of the permitting process.  The process of registration in itself is not altogether pleasant as the owner must take it upon himself to hire qualified personnel to study and inspect the dam to properly rate and assess the condition.

Part 2 we talk more about the environmental issues surrounding dams.

~p0sted by Admin