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Decision made to remove the dams

DANVILLE -- After months of debate, Danville's City Council voted to remove two dams.
DANVILLE -- After months of debate, Danville's City Council voted to remove two dams. Some in the community say it will ruin the Vermilion River. WCIA-3's Anna Carrera has more.

A few council members who originally wanted to keep the dams changed their minds Tuesday night. They found out the city would be responsible if anyone was hurt or drowned because of the dams. There are still a lot of questions about what this means for the area.

Most people in Danville can't remember what Ellsworth Park looked like before the dam was built. But soon, that could change.

"I had no intention of voting to remove the Ellsworth Park Dam," said Alderman Bill Black. "We have a duty to the taxpayer. We have a duty to the fishermen and outdoors people and you make a tough decision."

A big factor in that decision was liability. People have drowned in each of the dams; most recently a UI student in 2003.

"Today lawyers will line up and say, 'you knew that dam was hazardous. You did nothing and we're going to file a $50 million lawsuit,'" said Black.  

If families sued, taxpayers would basically end up footing the bill. It's something which encouraged Black and others to change their minds.

Black says he's seen the dangers of the dam firsthand.

"A young man, who was on my little league team, who drowned at Ellsworth Park, in the roil water, he was a superb athlete," said Black. 

But he still has questions about the future.

"I don't know what this is going to do to the river," said Black. "I'm not a hydrologist. If you take those dams out, will it lower the water flow in the summer to the point where you couldn't kayak on it or will it ruin the fishing? A lot of people are not happy with the decision."

A couple of aldermen still voted to keep the dams, but it wasn't enough to save them. The city plans to request a $2-million grant from the state to cover the cost of removing them, but it needs to be approved and that will likely take time. So Black says he expects fans of the outdoors will have at least one more summer to enjoy the dams.
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