The long-awaited removal of the Fairbank Dam on the Des Plaines River between Riverside and unincorporated Riverside Lawn is expected to begin as early as mid-December, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Kovalic Construction, the firm performing the work, will move its equipment to the Fairbank Dam site after it completes the demolition of the Armitage Dam, farther upstream. Demolition on that dam began Monday and should take a couple of weeks to complete.

Removal of the Armitage Dam was delayed for months, first over questions the Army Corps had regarding Kovalic’s method for removing the dam, and then over sediment behind the 110-foot-wide Armitage Dam that the Army Corps determined needed to be removed.

The sediment has now been removed, said Jeff Zuercher, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers. Kovalic was further hampered in removing the dam by higher-than-expected water. The water level has receded enough for the work to begin now. 

In mid-November, workers cleared some trees and shrubs in order to lay a wide gravel access path to the Fairbank Dam from Fairbank Road in Riverside. Plastic orange fencing has also been placed around some mature trees to keep heavy equipment from damaging them.

According to Zuercher, the roughly 160-foot-wide Fairbank Dam will be removed in 20-foot sections by a Caterpillar excavator, fitted with a hydraulic hammer positioned on a floating platform on the river. River water will be diverted around the work site by a removable 20-foot wide steel shield.

A second Caterpillar excavator will be placed on the Riverside riverbank to load the dam debris onto trucks, which will haul it away. The demolition work should take no longer than “two to three weeks, hopefully less,” said Zuercher.

Phase two of the dam removal project – the notching of the much larger Hofmann Dam and the regrading of Swan Pond Park in Riverside – is planned to commence some time in 2012.

The contractor for that phase of the project will be Illinois Constructors Corporation, whose low bid of $2.64 million was accepted by the Army Corps and Illinois Department of Natural Resources in September.