Proposed dam safety rule could be end of canoe race


By PAUL DAILING For The Beacon News

This year could be the last for the popular Mid-American Canoe and Kayak Race if the state passes a rule change regarding dams.

As currently proposed, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Dam Safety Rule 3703 would make people “portage” (get out of the water and carry their boats) starting 300 feet upstream of a dam. They wouldn’t be able to get back into the water until they’re 50 feet downstream.

This is to ensure the boaters steer clear of dams. It was proposed after the drownings last year of canoe paddlers near the Yorkville dam.

The trouble is this would turn the hundreds of Mid-American participants into hundreds of trespassers. The guidelines would make Mid-American racers get out of the water onto private property.

There are three dam portages along the race route.

“I don’t think it’s going to make anything safer,” race director Jeff Long said. “I think it’s going to penalize responsible paddlers.”

There have been no major injuries in the estimated 240,000 portages among all the racers since the Mid-American race started in 1961, Long said.

The Fox Valley Park District is going to take a “wait and see approach” with the rule change, Long said. They will decide on the race’s future depending on whether the rule change passes and whether it passes in its current form. The group wants exemptions for existing dams.

If the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules passes the measures, there would be few options for the Mid-American, said Prairie State Canoeist board member Kathy Landow.

“They would have to re-establish the portages or move it to a section of the river where there are no dams,” she said.

   paddlinbrad wrote:River recreationists should be up in arms over this seriously flawed law! It will cost tens of thousands of dollars to municipalities and land owners with its unfunded mandate for signs and buoys. Not to mention lost revenue which will be lost as the Fox river will be virtually shutdown to paddlers and fishermen will lose many of their favorite spots. It will not save lives! It will make criminals of unfortunate paddlers because the ones most likely to drift within the restricted areas will be the ones with the least skills. Then those folks will have to decide whether to face a class A misdemeanor or chance running the dam to get away.
This is a political knee-jerk reaction to one unfortunate incident.
For safer paddling we need more education not more regulation and criminalization!


6/8/2009 9:07 PM CDT on


One response to “Proposed dam safety rule could be end of canoe race

  1. Just an example of things we need to keep our eyes open for in Michigan regarding over-legislation due to an isolated incident.

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