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Ottawa canal issues to be addressed; outlook promising for spring

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The Illinois and Michigan Canal in Ottawa was drained in July, after the water began collecting algae and weeds. Ottawa officials met last week to discuss the future plan to rewater the canal. 

The first step to getting the Illinois and Michigan Canal in Ottawa refilled is fixing the conduit leak under La Salle Street, a group of city officials decided Thursday.

One of the partners at IMEG, the engineering firm that worked on the canal project, said further course of actions can be decided once the leak’s location is confirmed and a cause of the leaks is figured out.

Arnie Bandstra, the president of the Ottawa Canal Association, said there was good representation from everyone involved in the project at the meeting and while an immediate solution wasn’t reached, the participants learned of steps that will be taken going forward to fix the leaks, remove the weeds and get the sump pumps taken care of.

“I think there was pretty much a consensus that we can easily take care of the cat tail problem, so that will be taken care of,” Bandstra said. “We have good confirmation from people with experience that we can handle the algae problem once we get water in the canal, thinking ahead to next year.”

Ottawa Mayor Dan Aussem said the meeting went well and will help the city get the canal to the state the council originally planned on.

He said one of the factors that led to the growth of cattails was that it wasn’t realized the chemical liner needed six inches of water when applied to be properly protected, so by the time six inches of water got added, the cattails had a head start.

The canal was rewatered with flowing water this spring, but then it was drained at the beginning of July after it was overtaken by algae and weeds.

Aussem said the winter freeze should kill off the cattails.

“Everybody took a piece of the puzzle and came back with feedback, and I’ve made the comment before that we’re three quarters aways across the ocean with this project and we can’t just throw it all away with the money invested so far,” Aussem said.

The canal rewatering project has cost more than $1.3 million, according to records obtained by The Times in a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Ottawa I&M Canal Association was able to raise $200,000 itself and the city also received a $100,000 Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant.


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