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Timeline takes shape for river dredging at Aroma Park

Posted on January 3, 2023

Boats could once again be able to be launched at the Aroma Park boat ramp that’s in Kankakee Valley Park District’s Potawatomi Park on Front Street in Aroma Park sometime in 2023.

The timeline for the work, which will take approximately three to four months, could begin in late spring or early summer, according to a report given by Charlie Dewes, water resource engineer with Christopher Burke Engineering of Indianapolis, Ind., at the Kankakee County Board’s Highway and Waterways Committee on Dec. 22.

“The Aroma Park boat launch is used for access to the waterway for a variety of reasons from the fire department and other entities,” Dewes said. “It’s critical that the boat launch be cleared for boat operations and currently it’s it’s very sedimented in with all the sand.”

Burke Engineering completed a study of the site project, collected data in the topographic area and is working on the initial design. The plan calls for removal of noxious sand between the boat launch and an island in the middle of the Kankakee River in the immediate area both upstream and downstream.

The project by Burke Engineering, which was announced in September, is being paid for by a $1 million secured from the state by State Sen. Patrick Joyce, D-Essex.

Dewes said there are four phases to the project, including the just completed site observation, and the next step is the dredge design plan which will begin in January. That phase includes getting permits from state and local agencies — Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Environmental Protection Angency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

That permitting process will take approximately 90 days in an ideal condition. If that process can be completed by May, then the third phase is getting bids for the construction. It’s hopeful the fourth phase, construction, could begin in the summer.

“For the amount of sediment we’re talking about … this will probably be a three to four months type of operation,” Dewes said. “It’s not a tremendous amount of sediment. There are some very efficient sediment removal contractors out there that do this all across the country.”

The site study determined that 8,000 to 10,000 cubic yards of sand will have to be removed from the area immediately surrounding the boat launch.

“We want to take out as much sand as we can to make it navigable, but we’ll be strategic with how we remove that sand,” said Dewes, who added that enough sand and sediment will be removed to a depth of approximately three to four feet.

The cost of removing the sand is $15 to $20 per cubic feet, which would be around $200,000. It would cost another $200,000 in engineering, de-watering the sand and transporting it to dump site.

“I think that frees up quite a bit of that remaining budget to do the permanent features that we’re talking about, which is energy stabilization on the bank,” Dewes said. “… I think that’s positive. I think you want to include them in because then they’re self maintaining. When you have self maintaining, then you don’t have to come back and do another dredge operation possibly for years, which would be great.”

There’s also a possibility that the dredging could be expanded to the area upstream from the boat launch near the Ryan’s Pier restaurant just east of Bridge Street. The de-watering will be done on site in KVPD’s Potawatomi Park, which will save on the cost of having the sand trucked to another location.

“We’re limited on the amount of sand we can get out, only by the million dollars,” County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler said. “We can’t go over that. If the big cost is trucking, obviously the key is don’t move it more than you have to, make sure all the water is out which we have to anyway per the regulations. But then find a local source for that, and I think we have.”

Wheeler will meet with Burke Engineering to determine how much more sand can be removed from the river and still stay under the $1 million budget.

Joyce also secured $7 million dollars for the state’s capital projects for the county’s Highway and Waterways Committee that can be used for bondable items and not dredging. Wheeler said the county is putting a list together of what that money can be used for in the future. The money can be used for equipment to maintain the river. Those purchases or expenses have to be submitted to the state for approval.

“We’re focusing on equipment,” Wheeler said.

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