How Does the Fox Waterway Agency Manage Erosion Control in IL?

The Fox Waterway Agency Is Vital to Erosion Control in the Fox River and Chain O’Lakes

If you’re a boat owner living anywhere along the Fox River or on the Chain O’Lakes, you’ve probably seen the Fox Waterway Agency’s safety bulletins about water conditions, when locks are open or closed, and other information about our waterways. However, you may not be fully aware of the role that the Fox Waterway Agency plays in promoting erosion control and keeping the waterway safe for residents to use.

The Fox Waterway Agency handles a variety of activities including dredging, debris removal, restoration projects, and more.

Here’s a breakdown of those responsibilities and how they keep the Fox River and the Chain O’Lakes safe and pleasant for the community.

The Fox Waterway Agency Promotes Erosion Control with Dredging

The Fox Waterway Agency states that every year, as much as 100,000 cubic yards of new sedimentation enters the waters of the Fox River and the Chain O’Lakes system. That’s enough sediment to fill 30 Olympic swimming pools. This sediment comes from shoreline erosion as well as construction and other human activities, and is spread throughout the entire watershed, flowing down the Fox River.

Sediment consists of loose sand, silt, clay, and other soil particles that settle at the bottom of the water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists sediment as the most common contaminant in lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and streams, which is why erosion control is so important. Here are some of the problems that sediment causes in our water:

  • It clogs storm drains and catch basins that carry water away from homes and roads, increasing the potential for flooding.
  • Sediment makes water murky, preventing natural vegetation from growing and animals from being able to see food. Additionally, it can clog fish gills and make them more susceptible to disease. This disrupts the natural food chain and can cause declines in fish populations.
  • It lowers water quality, can produce unpleasant tastes and odors, and makes water treatment more expensive.
  • Sediment transports nutrients that can activate blue-green algae which releases toxins that make swimmers get sick.
  • It deposits in rivers and can alter water flow and reduce water depth, making navigation and recreational activities more difficult.

Eliminating as much of this sediment as possible is key to promoting erosion control and maintaining the health and convenience of our water system. The Fox Waterway Agency accomplishes this with dredging. This is when mud, weeds, and rubbish are scooped out of a river, harbor, or other body of water using a dredge, which resembles a large crane or excavator.

Excavator bucket dredging sand and gravel from the seafront

The Fox Waterway Agency carries out dredging in all of our lakes, main navigational channels, and channel mouth. They even dredge homeowner channels. If you ever have murky water that’s in need of dredging, you can fill out a dredging application. Once you submit your dredging packet, they’ll review it and contact you.

This important method of erosion control helps preserve clean, healthy, usable waterways for us all to enjoy for years to come.

The Fox Waterway Agency Issues Safety Advisories and Removes Debris

Unfortunately, there’s often more than just sediment in our water. Larger debris can enter the waterway due to a variety of causes, including both human activities and storms. When this debris enters the waterways, it poses serious hazards to residents along the waterway as well as boaters, swimmers, and other people who use it.

The Fox Waterway Authority works to warn residents about debris as well as remove all the debris from our waterway and keep our channels and rivers navigable. That includes obstructions which may create dangerous or emergency situations, as debris can pick up mass and speed as it travels downriver.

A recent example of the Fox Waterway Authority’s efforts was the flooding that hit the region this past July. The agency declared no-wake zones and issued debris advisories for affected areas so that residents know where and when it’s safe to go back out on the water. Then, they got to work helping remove the debris and make the waterway safe again.

Using their fleet of four boats, the Fox Waterway Agency removed debris that included trees, patio furniture, rafts, a trampoline, and even boats and docks that got swept away in the floodwaters. These items can float downriver and cause dangerous collisions, or alternatively settle out of sight below the surface of shallow waters, posing a danger to boaters and swimmers alike. Logs can even rise create a dam-like effect at local bridges.

The agency fielded thousands of calls and worked around the clock to monitor the situation and clear out as much debris as possible. Their efforts helped keep residents safe and restore the waterway so that we can go back to using it as normal.

The Fox Waterway Agency Completes Restoration Projects and Maintenance

In addition to those important tasks, the Fox Waterway Agency also handles both routine maintenance and larger restoration projects.

For example, they’ve used GeoTube technology to ensure erosion control along shorelines and secure them from erosion and extinction. A few of these projects include Pape Island, Ackerman, Chain O’Lakes State Park, and Cooper’s Farm. Another big success was Grass Island, where the agency contributed to preserving and bringing back indigenous species of wildlife that had been threatened. These projects promote environmental health and make our lakes and lands better homes for wildlife.

On top of that, the Fox Waterway Agency handles all sorts of other miscellaneous tasks involved in administrating and maintaining the waterway. Right now, they’re preparing for winter drawdown and have begun closing down locks for the season. These practices keep our waterways safe and navigable year after year.

The Fox Waterway Agency does a lot to ensure erosion control along the shorelines of your waterway. However, they aren’t the only ones who hold that responsibility. If you own waterfront property, it’s up to you to do what you can to preserve it. One way to do this is with a well-built seawall. Seawalls Unlimited has been constructing and maintaining seawalls that provide effective erosion control in the Chain O’Lakes region for years. Give us a call today at (815) 331-8830 and we’ll work with you to ensure your property has the best protection from the forces of erosion.