Residents will have one of their final chances to voice concerns about the Monterey Dam on Tuesday before a nearly irreversible decision is made about the dam’s future.
State Department of Natural Resources officials will hold a meeting at their Janesville headquarters to inform the public and gather comments about the city’s plan to remove the dam.
The city in April filed a permit to abandon the dam. Once the DNR grants it, that’s the point of no return, and the dam eventually will be removed, said Tim Whittaker, city stormwater engineer.
The DNR’s final decision can be appealed, but the agency hasn’t overturned a decision to abandon and remove a dam in at least 30 years, said dam safety engineer Rob Davis.
During Tuesday’s meeting, city officials will present the dam-removal plans they submitted to the DNR. The DNR will accept public comments and eventually decide whether to grant the city’s permit, Whittaker said.
“This meeting is part of the DNR’s fact gathering for that decision process,” he said.
The DNR also will accept written comments submitted via mail and email through Sept. 21. It will consider those and comments shared Tuesday equally when making its decision, according to a notice of the meeting.
According to the notice, the meeting’s purpose is to get comments on the removal plans, not whether the dam should be removed or repaired. When making its decision, the DNR must consider:
- Whether there’s detriment to the public interest, including fishing, wildlife, natural scenic beauty or water quality.
- If there’s a risk to public safety, including health and property.
- If river navigation is obstructed.
Davis said the timing of the DNR’s decision-making process depends on if the agency receives comments it hadn’t considered, though he doesn’t expect that.
If the meeting shows the city’s plans need to be modified, that also could delay the abandonment process, Whittaker said.
The Monterey Dam Association, a group opposed to the dam’s removal, is still fighting to save it.
The group has gathered more than 500 signatures from residents who want the Janesville City Council to revisit its decision to remove the dam. The group gathered most of the signatures during its “Just Give a Dam” campaign at the Rock County 4-H Fair.
City council President Doug Marklein said the council does not plan to revisit the issue. He said he hasn’t seen any interest from council members.
One concern among association members is the contaminated sediment in the Rock River near the General Motors plant.
The city found the sediment while doing a study of the river near the plant. DNR officials have said GM is responsible for cleanup.
GM asked to do its own independent and more in-depth study, which the DNR allowed. The company has cleared part of its facility of contaminants, but the status of the river cleanup remains unclear.
The association takes issue with that.
“Apparently, we are not entitled to know the plan for the contamination cleanup when it is our health and safety on the line,” member Sheri Henry wrote in an email to The Gazette.
The DNR has said GM must address the contamination even if it moves downstream. Part of the city’s plan submitted to the DNR is to draw the river down slowly to prevent contaminants from flowing away, Whittaker said.
“It is a sad day in the city of Janesville when the administration does not listen to the people,” Henry wrote to The Gazette. “When this is all said and done, who will be responsible for the destruction of the city, its landscape, its heritage and the people’s property?”