Residents share concerns over Monterey Dam removal

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Jake Magee
Friday, November 11, 2016

JANESVILLE—Jean Zuvon lives across the street from the Monterey Bay, a low part of the Rock River that could become nothing more than a mudflat if the Monterey Dam were removed.

He's concerned about what demolishing the damaged dam could do to the beauty of the area.

Farther downstream, Shawn McCarten runs the It's a Keeper Bait & Tackle shop. He is worried removing the dam could impact fishing habitats and the family-friendly business he has worked hard to make a destination.

“I really don't want to see it go, but inevitably, if it has to, I want to make sure that it's (the area's) suitable for families and fishing,” he said.

Despite their concerns, Zuvon and McCarten remain optimistic and open minded. Both are confident the city will work to find the best solution to address the deteriorating Monterey Dam the state Department of Natural Resources has ordered the city to repair or remove.

As a first step to figure out the best solution, city officials and employees from Inter-Fluve, a dam consulting company the city hired in 2015, displayed exhibits and answered a handful of residents' questions and concerns at a community engagement forum Thursday night.

Officials have determined repairing the dam would cost about $580,000, which is more than twice the original estimate of $250,000, said city engineer Mike Payne.

Removing the dam and doing any restoration work to maintain fishing or beautify the bay would cost at least as much as repairing it. City officials haven't determined a cost estimate because there are several options to consider, he said.

Despite the higher cost to remove the dam, the city could be eligible for more grants if it chooses removal over repair, Payne said.

While repairing it wouldn't change much, removing it could lower water levels from Center Avenue to Racine Street, affecting fishing habitats and leading to a lower, narrower river channel. Both were top concerns for residents who attended the forum, said Inter-Fluve civil engineer Beth Wentzel.

Last year, McCarten was encouraging customers to sign a petition to save the dam. Removing it would get rid of the turbulence that creates fishing spots near his bait shop.

Now, however, McCarten has faith the city will work to maintain fishing in the area if the dam were removed. In fact, it's possible walkways could be extended to provide more room to fish.

“If they can increase it and maintain the fish habitat that's there, it would be better for everybody,” he said.

The city could use fish cribs, boulders, ripple ponds and other structures to maintain the fish population, but doing so could bump up the overall project cost.

“I just want to increase the fishing opportunity and family-friendly atmosphere,” McCarten said. “I'm open for all options.”

Zuvon doesn't want to see the bay become an outdoor lab for students or a prairie—two ideas the city has considered. In those cases, the area could end up as an unsightly swamp, he said.

Zuvon's idea is to convert the bay into a park. People would be able to fish in the Rock River off the bank of the park, he said.

Both McCarten and Zuvon signed up to be part of an advisory committee that will meet a few times to come up with a solution to recommend the Janesville City Council. The council will likely make a decision by March.

In its study of the dam, Inter-Fluve determined there is not much sediment built up in the main channel behind the dam, and most of it is relatively clean. The department isn't concerned with letting the sediment continue downstream if the dam is removed, Wentzel said.

Had there been more sediment or had it been largely contaminated, costs to excavate it and remove the dam would have gone way up, she said.

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