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All permits now approved for river dredging

The Aroma Park boat launch is located at KVPD’s Potawatomi Park (South Division and West Front streets) in Aroma Park.

Posted on June 3, 2024

Kankakee County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler said it’s been a long wait to get the necessary approval from regulatory agencies to go ahead with the dredging of the Kankakee River at Aroma Park.

“It may seem like a hundred years in the making from just this board working on it, but it truly has been 100 years in the making of any actual work done on the river of this manner,” he said recently at county board’s Highways and Waterways Committee meeting.

The county received the Illinois Department of Natural Resources permit this past week for the work at the boat launch at the Potawatomi Park in Aroma Park. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency also granted permits for the dredging in the past month.

“We are prepared to bid the project soon,” said A.J. Fricke, director of engineering for Christopher Burke Engineering in Indianapolis, which has been contracted to oversee the project.

Fricke is taking over for Charlie Dewes, a former project engineer with Burke Engineering who accepted a job with another Indiana-based civil engineering firm.

“I’ll be taking you over the finish line here,” Fricke said via a Zoom link at the meeting. “… We now have all the permits that are required to complete the project.”

The project, which Wheeler said is more of sediment management than dredging, was announced in September 2022. The entire project is being paid for by $1 million secured from the state by State Sen. Patrick Joyce, D-Essex.

With all three permits in hand, the county will put the project out for bid in the next week or two.

“We are working on it now to include the state of Illinois contract language requirements,” Wheeler said. “We’re not necessarily getting it finished too quickly. We’re definitely going to get it out soon. It’s got to be right.”


Once a bid is chosen, the work is expected to commence after Aroma Park’s Two Rivers Festival on Aug. 17. Wheeler is hopeful a bid can be awarded in the next month. The river project from start to finish will take roughly one month to complete.

“We’re ready to go,” said Wheeler, noting this project has been in the works for almost two years and, more so, the community has stressed the need for dredging the Kankakee River for decades. “This is step one.”

There is going to be approximately 9,500 cubic yards of sand/sediment removed from the Kankakee River at the Aroma Park boat ramp. Once it’s dewatered on site, it will be hauled away and delivered to the Illinois State Rifle Association Range in Bonfield, which has agreed to accept the sand.

The purpose is to remove enough sand in the area wide enough to allow boat traffic for emergency rescue operations and for recreational use.

In addition, the dredging method will be mechanical, using an amphibious excavator with a reach arm that scoops the wet sediment from the stream channel. This project will be the first of its kind in the area, and it will encompass approximately 2.36 acres.


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