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City-IDNR canal partnership examined in Q&A

Published: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Olivia Smith of Rock Falls paddles with members of her family during a canoe ride down the Hennepin Feeder Canal in this 2008 file photo. Rock Falls officials are considering annexing, then leasing the 2.2-mile stretch of the feeder canal into the city.

ROCK FALLS – The city is studying the benefits and feasibility of annexing, then leasing, the 2.2-mile stretch of the Hennepin Feeder Canal into the city. 

City officials recently formed a Hennepin Canal committee, led by Alderman Jim Schuneman, tasked with working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on how such a relationship between the two would work.

Also this week, results were released from a study of the economic impact of canal cruising along the Hennepin Canal.

Sauk Valley Media asked IDNR’s George Bellovics five questions about the feasibility of canal cruising along the Hennepin and how such an annexation and lease agreement with the city would work. Bellovics is a landscape architect.

Q: Do trees that have fallen into the water prevent a boat from using it?

A: There is boating along the canal now. People can boat the canal. Most fisherman that have utilized the canal understand. In certain parts, mostly it’s small fishing boats that use the canal right now.

Whoever ends up utilizing that service would have to take a greater role in making sure there’s not that type of obstruction. The Renaissance Group is behind the locks, that then would lead to potentially an entrepreneur coming up with or having a potential cruising type of situation.

Q: Would there potentially be a tax increase to pay for work related to the city annexing the canal?

A: Rock Falls hasn’t determined what level of involvement they want to have. The whole aspect of a tax increase has nothing to do with this question, as far as I’m concerned. Financial management of the city is separate from taking on the role of the canal.

This is the information-gathering part of the whole process. Then they formulate a plan and go from there.

Q: Whose responsibility is removing trees with emerald ash borer?

A: If you have really large, mature ash trees that happened to be affected, that’s something that neither of us has the capacity to do. [If the tree] happened to be where people are, we get those down first. It’s a matter of identifying those; we may do two or three a year. Individual landowners can save their own trees.

Q: Is low water level a concern along the canal?

A: It’s manageable for the most part. Only when you get those extreme times of low water, almost nothing you can do about it until you get enough rain. Most of the boaters that utilize the canal understand that.

Q: What are the next steps in the process?

A: It’s really up to Rock Falls to garner consensus on what they believe their role should be. [Whether they] try to get a sense ... through survey, or additional subcommittee meetings, it’s really up for them to do.

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