We’re not sure exactly what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Illinois Department of Natural Resources were thinking. Surely they knew that the removal of the Hofmann and Fairbank dams on the Des Plaines River was a topic of intense interest in Riverside.
The agencies had been introduced first hand to the kind of scrutiny from residents and village officials it would be likely to see throughout the duration of the project. Sure the village was cooperating – they wanted to make sure that, by working as a partner instead of an adversary, they could influence decisions for their benefit, particularly related to Swan Pond Park.
But there were others in the community who were dead set against the project from the get go and were rooting out every scrap of information possible. And yet, the Army Corps saw fit to bury new information regarding water flows that suggested an earlier figure was a bit optimistic.
The explanation given since that information was found out was that it would have confused the issue and monkeyed with the timing of everything. There were lots of moving parts getting this thing approved and moving ahead. The project had been delayed for an entire year already.
So the Army Corps decided it would deep six a water flow prediction that was roughly half of the one used to do all of the modeling for stream widths and depths after the dams were removed.
They say that the data given to residents at a public meeting (based on those older figures) are still valid and that the difference between the two numbers is not enough to cause alarm about how river depth and width will be affected.
Sure, the numbers are valid, but they might not be accurate – that’s the whole point.
And on the eve of the dam’s removal, the Army Corps has backed itself into this corner and it owes the village of Riverside and its residents an explanation and an apology.
Removal of the Hofmann Dam itself was not slated to begin for several more weeks as river levels fell and bank stabilization work commenced. While the Army Corps may be OK with the numbers as they stand now, Riverside residents are understandably not so certain.
Instead of being treated like partners they were treated like subjects. The information should have been shared and vetted.
That’s why before any work to notch Hofmann Dam moves forward, we want the Army Corps to clearly prove why their numbers won’t have the dire impact so many people fear and we want them to present those figures, maps and charts to the public in a public setting.
If that makes them uncomfortable, well, that’s too bad, because the situation is of their own making.
Riverside has bent over backward to cooperate with this important effort to clear the water way and improve Swan Pond Park. The village doesn’t deserve to be steamrolled by state and federal agencies who won’t have to live with the permanent consequences of this project.