Reprinted from the Winter 2015 issue of The Friends of the Chicago River newsletter.
More than a decade after [Friends of the Chicago River] embarked on an ambitious dam removal program for the Chicago River system, the first dam was demolished on the East Fork of the North Branch just below the Skokie Lagoons in November. Known as Winnetka Road, the dam was removed by the Forest Preserves of Cook County as part of the state wide effort to reconnect our waterways and make them safer for paddlers and healthier for wildlife. The project is a collaboration between the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), the Niles Park District, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Friends began our dam removal efforts in 2004 after evaluation of fish species with IDNR showed that that they were not evenly distributed throughout the system even though upstream habitat was superior. Friends assessed the dams on the system and recommended four for removal because either they no longer served a useful purpose or because they were enormously detrimental. All of the dams prevent the passage of riverine fishes, trap bedload material of sand and gravel, and are hazardous to people recreating on the water.
The removal of this dam, which has been in place since 1918, is an important milestone for the Chicago River.