Drownings draw more talk of dam, spillway safety measures
CHAMPAIGN (AP) - The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says it is considering flashing buoys and other new safety measures to guard against accidents at lake dams and spillways like the one that killed three members of a family last week on Clinton Lake. Some discussion had started before the accident, driven in part by a series of drownings on Illinois rivers last summer, said Gary Shaw, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' Office of Water Resources. But the deaths of 59-year-old Richard Hunter, his 29-year-old son, Jason Hunter, and 8-year-old grandson, Kalin Hunter - after their boat drifted over the Clinton Lake spillway March 14 - have added to the sense of urgency. "Is there something we can and should do for public safety? We're starting to work on some of these considerations right now, and costing out the options," Shaw said. The Hunters' boat apparently ran out of gas around sunset and drifted over the spillway as a cold front and rain blew in on strong, northerly winds, authorities have said. The two men were found the next day in Salt Creek just below the 25-foot spillway. Kalin Hunter's body was found nearby Thursday. Authorities believe the boat was the third to wash over the spillway in the 5,000-acre lake's 25-year history. The Hunters, who were from Normal, were the first fatalities. While DNR officials have said the dam and its spillway are marked by buoys, they have speculated the Hunters may not have seen them in the dark. Clark said the DNR is considering posting new warning signs and buying buoys with strobe lights, which cost about $2,000 each, for a number of waterways either owned or managed by the agency, including Clinton and 12 other lakes with comparable spillways. The agency also may consider placing lights on the dam at Clinton Lake. "It's something that can and probably should be considered," he said. Barriers, something Clark said the DNR hasn't considered but might, have been erected around spillways at a number of lakes nationwide. In Illinois, barriers have been added at Lakes Shelbyville and Carlyle in the past few years. The lakes are among the more than 400 across the country owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The barrier at Shelbyville, an 11,000-acre lake about 30 miles southeast of Decatur, was added a few years ago for $57,000, said Alan Dooley, spokesman for the Corps of Engineers St. Louis District. Signs on the lake had long warned boaters and others to stay at least 600 feet away from the spillway that empties into the Kaskaskia River, Dooley said. "You do want to provide that additional, I guess you'd call it a passive safety measure," he added. The Shelbyville barrier was built by a New Jersey company, Wave Dispersion Technologies Inc. It's essentially a long cable held on the top of the water by tightly spaced plastic floats. At $200 to $250 a foot, company owner Dennis Smith said the barriers provide both security - blocking access to anyone who might want to damage or destroy a dam - and safety. "Usually the dams just need a barrier where something won't float over it if (their boat is) disabled," Smith said. "It'll stop somebody from drifting over." Clinton Lake was built to cool a nuclear-power plant owned by AmerGen Energy Company. The company owns the lake and spillway, but the DNR manages the lake and would have to make any safety-minded changes, both the company and agency say. Clark couldn't say when any new safety measures would be added. Drownings last year below dams on the Fox and Kankakee rivers killed six people and led the DNR, the state Capital Development Board and Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn to commission a report on how to make those and other river dams safer. The report, now in draft form, is due this summer, Capital Development Board spokesman David Blanchette said Friday. At that point, he said, the state agencies will look at the recommendations and decide which ones are worth doing. The state budget proposed for next year by the governor has $10.3 million in it for dam safety, Blanchette said. While the General Assembly has yet to approve the budget, "It's hard to imagine that anyone would vote against something like that," he said. © Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
March 29, 2011
Incumbent Ward 4 Alderman Lee Folsom is being challenged by benefit auctioneer Harvey Temple. In this clip, candidates express views on school district consolidation.
Incumbent Ward 4 Alderman Lee Folsom is being challenged by benefit auctioneer Harvey Temple. In this clip, they talk about alternative revenue sources for the city.
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Rock Falls' Lirim Lecaj leaps over a ground ball fielded by Dixon's Dirk Spence Monday afternoon.