Hopes for removing three utility poles from Swan Pond Park in Riverside as part of the regrading of the park this spring were dashed recently, when ComEd told village officials that moving the electric lines underground would be too expensive.
Instead, ComEd will move the three poles, which are bunched together near the river, further north and continue to deliver power overhead, across the river to Riverside Lawn.
Previously, Riverside officials had hoped ComEd might agree to bore beneath the river and route the power lines underground. But the power company has decided it’s not worth the cost or the time involved to do it, said Village Manager Peter Scalera. ComEd did not provide the village with an estimate of what it might cost to put the power lines underground.
“It’s too costly to move it underground, so now it’s a matter of determining where the poles are going to be relocated,” Scalera said.
In addition to the cost, ComEd reportedly told Scalera that they weren’t sure how long it would take to obtain permits to bore under the river. The entire second phase of the dam removal project – both the regrading of the park and notching the Hofmann Dam – requires those power lines moving.
“It’s all dependent on the poles,” Scalera said. “The Corps can’t do anything until ComEd does the work.”
The existing location for the poles sits exactly where a culvert is being installed to help the park drain after flood events. The location of the culvert and drainage swale has been marked with wooden sticks topped with pink ribbons.
Scalera said officials had alternately hoped that ComEd could simply disconnect the power lines and reroute them elsewhere. However, he said, they are primary power lines delivering electricity to Riverside Lawn, the main train station and the First Division.
The lines come over the river from Riverside Lawn to the utility poles in Swan Pond Park. From there, the lines are routed down the poles and then underground to the train station and the First Division.
ComEd visited the site on March 6, said Scalera, and said they were working on the design of the new utility pole location.
“Once the design is approved we can work with [ComEd] on trying to get it scheduled,” Scalera said. “We’re trying to push them as much as possible. Our goal is still to have this work begin in the spring of this year.”
Visitors to Swan Pond Park have also no doubt noticed many trees with a green dot painted on their trunks. Those are trees that have been identified for removal by the Army Corps of Engineers. A good number of the trees are in the middle of the park and their removal with open up the space quite a bit.
Riverside resident Donald Spatny on March 5 urged the village board to press the Army Corps to reconsider removing two of the trees, a mature elm in the middle of the park and an oak tree near the walking path.
“There’s going to be enough trees cut,” said Spatny. “There’s going to be a big hole in the tree canopy down there, believe me.”
Spatny went so far as to offer to donate $1,000 to the village for benches along the river if the trees were saved.
Trustee James Reynolds told Spatny that the village has already asked the Army Corps to reconsider the decision to remove those trees. In a separate interview, Scalera said he would like the Army Corps to come back once more to re-evaluate whether trees needed to come down.
“What we’re going to do is have them come back and do one more walk through, look at all of the trees, and if there are any other trees that we can avoid taking down to do that,” Scalera said. “Some of these are pretty significant trees.”
But the trees were identified for removal by the Corps because the regrading operation will disrupt their roots systems, which will eventually kill them, said Scalera.
There are also trees with white dots on them. Those trees are not slated for removal. The white dots were painted on the trees previously during a round of tree trimming, and the paint has not yet faded away completely.