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Wyss: Dredging headway reliant on fees

Even those who never boat on the Fox River or Chain O’ Lakes would be hard-pressed to deny their local economic impact.

Boaters buy everything from gas to food and drink, fishing gear, bait, water-skiing equipment, personal flotation devices, inflatables and more.

And for the privilege of boating on the Fox Waterway, they buy stickers. In 2008, they bought $1.34 million worth of them. The jury’s still out on the totals for this year, but they are expected to be higher.

Where does this money go? It pays 100 percent of the Fox Waterway Agency’s operational budget, said Ingrid Danler, executive director. The agency is a special unit of government established to care for the waterway. It does not assess property taxes. It is grant-supported, but the majority of its revenue comes from stickers.

And that’s appropriate. Those who play on the Chain and river should pay for its maintenance, just as motor fuel taxes should be solely designated for road and highway upkeep. If the state functioned that way, we might not be stoking the societal fires of video gambling – but that’s another subject.

A waterway sticker fee schedule increase has been proposed. For the most commonly purchased type – a Class B for boats over 15 horsepower and not exceeding 25 feet in length – the fee would go from $60 to $80 next season.

If approved, it would be the first increase in 10 years, Danler said. And if approved, the agency would reap an estimated $460,000 in additional money.

The sticker fee increase should float.

Why? An influx of federal money related to flood relief rendered the agency able the past couple of years to go from dredging less than 20,000 cubic yards of sediment in 2007 to about 129,000 cubic yards through Sept. 24 of this year. With the fee increase, that pace could continue after the federal money is gone. Actual headway could be made.

Some complain that no dredging takes place south of the McHenry dam. In fact, the agency has been working in Port Barrington for a year and a half and plans a project near Fox River Grove next, said Bill Brookman, an agency director from Cary. Also, in the past six years, the agency has dredged near Holiday Hills and near Burtons Bridge.

Commonly heard among boaters is that what they want from the waterway agency is dredging, dredging and more dredging.

Boaters can have it, if boaters are willing to pay for it.

To express your opinion, attend a hearing: 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at the McHenry Municipal Center, 333 S. Green St.; or 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at agency headquarters, 45 S. Pistakee Lake Road, Fox Lake.

• Cyndi Wyss is a Northwest Herald community editor. She can be reached at 815-526-4534 or

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