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Illinois proposed "Exclusion Zones" threaten boating

Posted: 09/16/2008
By: Kevin Colburn

The state of Illinois has proposed a new dam safety law.  The proposed law includes the establishment of a 300 ft upstream and 50 ft downstream exclusion zone around “dams” identified by the law as a threat to boaters.  Paddling in the exclusion zone would be a class A misdemeanor (similar to Assault, Battery, Theft).  Penalties are up to 364 days jail.


There are several concerns for the paddling community.  All of the existing portages around the listed structures are inside the exclusion zones, making portage illegal and paddling the river reaches impossible.  Most land around them is private, making longer portages subject to trespassing prosecution.  Several of the listed dams are step/slide dams that do not create strong hydraulics during normal water levels.  Two of the listed “Dams” are whitewater features that do not resemble the definition of “lowhead dam” in the least.  One of these is the popular “Dead Carp Drop” on the Sangamon River.  A third, Batavia Dam, has a runnable Class IV slide, as well as several Class II breaches and minor play at the base.  The study behind the proposed rule lists many errors indicating that it was created without input from the boating community or whitewater experts.  Most dams were observed by study authors only at high water.




While well-intentioned, this law is clearly bad policy.  The "one size fits all" exclusion zone must be adjusted to support a reasonably short legal portage at each dam.  Whitewater recreational opportunities, which are rare in the state, must be removed from the exclusion zone to support public use.  Illinois paddlers are encouraged to get involved and protect their enjoyment of the state's rivers and streams. 



Read the Rule

Read the Study


There are two opportunities to get involved:  




Attend a Public Hearing to discuss these proposed rules:

Date: Thursday, September 25, 2008
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Location: Bartlett Park District Theatre
James "Pate" Philip State Park
2054 W. Stearns
Bartlett IL 60103


Submit Comments on the proposed rulemaking  in writing by October 20th:

Robert Mool, Legal Counsel
Department of Natural Resources
One Natural Resources Way
Springfield IL 62702-1271
Telephone: 217/782-1809




Kevin Colburn

Asheville, NC

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