Is it too much to hope? Riverside residents and area fishermen have been waiting for so long for the Hofmann Dam to be removed or notched that any news is met with a dash of skepticism.

Every couple of years, it seems, there’s a report about the project being put back on the radar. Never happens.

This time, it seems different. For one thing, the money’s available. Money has always been the major hold up when it comes to the Hofmann Dam removal project. But now both the Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources have set aside the money for the work, which will involve notching the Hofmann Dam, demolishing two smaller dams and re-grading Swan Pond, the natural floodplain that abuts the river near downtown Riverside.

For another thing, the two agencies have a signed agreement giving the project a green light.

There are caveats. While the first phase of the project – demolishing the Fairbank and Armitage dams – looks like it will be on for winter 2010-11, there are still hurdles. Both agencies need to get land access rights from the Cook County Forest Preserve District, and we can guess other agencies or villages (Lyons, Riverside, Elmwood Park) may be involved in that process.

The second phase, which involves Riverside most directly, could be the victim of federal and state funding priorities. Phase Two is the key to whole deal. Notching Hofmann Dam will open the waterway to fish and do wonders for improving water quality along a long stretch of the river. It also removes a serious safety hazard, one that has been responsible for the deaths of at least four people (most of them unintentional) through the years.

Then there’s the Swan Pond part of the equation. When flood waters rise, Swan Pond fills up and drains very slowly. When the water recedes, it leaves behind a trail of dead fish and puddles that render the place unappealing and in many areas unusable.

Re-grading Swan Pond will help restore the drainage system for the flood plain, eliminating those problems.

With the prospect of these projects becoming reality, we urge village government and residents to continue pushing state and federal officials to keep this top of mind. All of the waiting appears to be over; let’s not allow the opportunity slip away.

Thinking of them all

The man on our front page today, Frank Sisulak doesn’t have any “war stories” to tell. His three years in the U.S. Army during World War II were spent in a hot desert, making sure doctors and nurses had what they needed to treat wounded men and the care for the local Tunisian population.

But it’s men like Frank – millions of them through the years – who helped this nation protect our liberty and secure it for so many others. On Memorial Day, while honoring fallen soldiers, sailors and Marines, give a thought or two as well to men like Frank Sisulak, who, while not on the front lines, did his bit and served his country honorably.