More than six months after work was to have started, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) still have no firm date for the demolition of the Fairbank Dam on the Des Plaines River between Riverside and Riverside Lawn.
In early July, Jeff Zuercher, an Army Corps project manager who has temporarily taken over the effort, said Kovilic Construction, the contractor, was still working on resubmitting paperwork related to their method for removing the dam.
Work was to have started last winter but has bogged down over the contractor’s method of removing the concrete structure.
“They have a plan; they just need to update it,” said Zuercher, who has taken over supervision of the project from Mike Nguyen, who has been reassigned to another project until at least October.
“We’re pushing [Kovalic] to get out there,” Zuercher said. “We’re hoping it happens quickly, but we don’t have control over how submittals come in.”
Zuercher said the hope is now to get work started “late this summer or early fall.”
Even at this point, however, Zuercher admitted that the Army Corps doesn’t have a full picture of what Kovilic plans to do. The company has agreed to remove the dam “in the wet,” that is, to do demolition without building a coffer dam around the work area.
“They’ll use a moveable steel shield,” said Zuercher. “They’ll put it in the water every day and work behind it, deflecting the river around the work area.”
The Army Corps balked at Kovilic’s first option, a coffer dam, which would be much harder to remove in the event of heavy rains. The agency feared use of a coffer dam could worsen flooding in Riverside Lawn in the event of high water.
But exactly how the demolition will happen and how debris will be removed from the site remains unclear.
“My guess is it will be some type of excavation,” said Zuercher, “a hydraulic jackhammer and probably another excavator to scoop it out. My guess is that debris will be removed by a truck from the bank, or they could have a floating platform. There’s not a full picture of the plan yet.”
The demolition of the small dam is part of the first phase of a $7.4 million, two-phase project that would remove three dams from the river in order to improve water quality and opportunities for recreation along a long stretch of the waterway.
Phase two of the plan includes notching the center 150 feet of the Hofmann Dam, stabilizing and planting the exposed banks and regrading Swan Pond to improve drainage.
Zuercher said the delays for the first phase of the project have not affected phase two and that final planning is wrapping up. He said the Army Corps expects to solicit bids for phase two in late July.
Riverside Village Manager Peter Scalera said that he has not seen the most recent plan and that he has had limited contact with both the Army Corps and IDNR since May, when both agencies were involved in a pair of roundtable meetings in the village.
“I haven’t seen the final plans,” Scalera said. “We’re anxious to see them.”
The plans will be available to the public once the Army Corps puts them online for bid solicitation. They can be found at the www.fedbizopps.gov, where the federal government posts jobs to be bid on.
Meanwhile, one portion of the project’s first phase appears close to beginning, Zuercher said. Removal of the Armitage Dam, which is on the Des Plaines north of North Avenue, could begin by the end of the month.
Kovilic Construction forwarded its final resubmittal for that project to the Army Corps two weeks ago, Zuercher said. The Army Corps has 30 days to review the submittal, though it typically takes no more than two weeks, he said.
“We hope to have that finished in the next week or so,” he said. “If it’s accepted, they can get notice to proceed.”