Illinois DNR restores public access on Vermilion River in LaSalle County
River section had been closed for dam safety modifications
Oglesby, IL – Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Director Marc Miller joined State Representative Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) at a ceremony today to officially reopen a portion of the Vermilion River for public recreation.
In the summer of 2009, a nearly three-mile section of the river was closed at the request of Buzzi Unicem USA while an agreement between the IDNR and the Pennsylvania-based cement company was crafted and while subsequent safety modifications were made to the privately-owned low head dam on the river.
“This is a great day for the citizens of LaSalle County and for everyone who enjoys paddling and rafting. This stretch of the Vermilion River is widely regarded as the best location for whitewater rafting and paddling in the state. I want to also thank Buzzi Unicem and Representative Mautino for their efforts to make this day possible,” said Director Miller. “By entering into this state lease with Buzzi Unicem, the IDNR took innovative action to work with a private landowner to successfully open access to the recreating public. We are happy to be a part of restoring public access to an improved Vermilion River.”
“I am very pleased to announce that this section of the Vermilion River will now be open to the people of Illinois and visitors to our state who enjoy spending time on the water,” said Representative Mautino. “The Vermilion River is a beautiful waterway and a tremendous resource for our Illinois River Valley communities in the State of Illinois. I would like to acknowledge the hard work of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, IDNR Director Marc Miller, and Buzzi Unicem. Thanks to the dedication of all parties involved, those who love spending time outdoors can enjoy the Vermilion River and the recreation opportunities it provides.”
The lease agreement reached between the IDNR and Buzzi Unicem USA in November 2010 provides that company ownership of the river continues while allowing the IDNR the right to reopen the river to public access for paddling and rafting recreation.
“Buzzi Unicem USA appreciates the IDNR’s cooperative efforts to make this beautiful natural resource available for the safe use and enjoyment of the people of Illinois. We thank Director Marc Miller and all of the IDNR staff that worked on this project for their tireless efforts to protect and preserve the natural resources of the state, to ensure the River’s continued availability for safe access, and for their diligent oversight and protection of the River against misuse. The company also expresses its appreciation to Representative Frank Mautino for marshaling the necessary resources and for his substantial work toward making this opening day a reality. We hope that the paddling community will both treasure the use of this resource and protect it against misuse and abuse through a campaign of educating the River’s users about the safe and proper use of this outstanding resource,” said a Buzzi Unicem USA spokesperson.
Pursuant to the lease, the IDNR Office of Water Resources oversaw safety modifications at the low head dam to reduce the risk of objects becoming trapped under the water due to the force of the current flowing over the dam.
IDNR staff also installed various warning devices such as buoys and signs upstream and downstream of the dam.
The public should note that the river area at, below and above the low head dam has been designated as a restricted area under Illinois Administrative Rule. The only legal access over the low head dam is to the river right, which is the right side of the river looking downstream. The restricted area is marked with hanging buoys.
Now that the river is reopened, the public is once again legally able to navigate this portion of the river. The IDNR reminds all recreational users that whitewater, rapids and dams of all types are inherently dangerous. Public awareness of the area and what is ahead is imperative to personal safety.