Veteran boaters on the Des Plaines River lately have been reporting seeing something they've never seen in decades of paddling up and down the river.
On the northern stretch of the river the water has been clear. You can see fish swimming along, sunken logs, rocks and, of course, the requisite number of old tires.
Why? Stream specialist Steve Pescitelli of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources gives a few reasons:
It hasn't rained much lately, so the water is low and sediment hasn't been stirred much. Less silt is being washed into the river. And it's late in the year, so algae has been dying off.
Of course, the rain today could change that.
But lasting change to the river is coming, as more dams are taken out.
After last weekend, work is pretty much wrapped up on removing the Hofmann Dam on the river between Riverside and Lyons, and river conservationists hope to remove more dams.
At one time, the river would dry up without the dams, but as hard surfaces channel more water into the river, along with treated wastewater now flowing in, that won't happen anymore. Now the dams just interfere with fish and boaters and degrade the environment immediately upstream of each dam.
Will they all come out? Pescitelli says if you asked him that 10 years ago, he would have bet against it, but now he thinks it actually could happen.
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