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Dam removal restores Brewster Creek by Sandy Kaczmarski


Brewster Creek is a tributary to the Fox River and flows from northwestern DuPage County to Elgin, where it enters the Fox. Te Brewster Creek Dam removal project is a wonderful example of how multiple agencies work together to resolve a problem for the benefit of all involved and in the end, help improve the quality of the Fox River. Te project involved a dam on camp property owned by the YWCA in Elgin that was identified by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as failing.


“It seemed to be a high-hazard dam, with the chance of damage to property, and also posed some safety risks,” Karen Kosky, who served as project manager, said. Kosky is the manager of resource conservation programs for Kane County.


A feasibility study was prepared to consider alternatives to completely removing the dam, such as rebuilding it in a different configuration, but the YWCA decided the best solution would be to have it removed because of safety considerations and also funding was available. Kosky said one of the biggest problems in just removing the dam was an interpretation of Illinois erosion control law.


“It says you can’t move sediment in any construction site,” she said. “Tis dam had been there for 75 years, collecting


sediment.” Te concern was they didn’t want to take out the dam and “send all the sediment downstream to settle somewhere else,” Kosky said.


It was decided to remove the dam “little by little,” allowing water to drain out and retain the sediment naturally. Once things stabilized, another section was removed. Te project began in 1998 and restoration efforts for this tributary to the Fox River were completed in 2004. Te heavily wooded 27-acre site is now owned and maintained by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County. Te restored habitat enhances opportunities for migrating fish to move freely up and downstream.


“It’s a free-flowing system right now and is considered stable,” Kosky said. “Tere’s no sediment movement outside of normal ranges. Te dam removal was very successful and now it looks like a natural stream flowing through beds of native vegetation.”


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