Drought’s effect on waterways minimal

Mother Nature may need a little help this year.

While the drawdown of the Fox waterways started like normal Thursday, the draw up may start a little earlier next year, said Rita Lee, a hydraulic engineer with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

That’s if the drought that’s plagued Illinois through the summer and into the fall continues.

“Typically we don’t bring the water back up,” Lee said. “Mother Nature usually does that for us.”

But if snow doesn’t materialize or there isn’t other precipitation, the agencies that monitor the Fox waterways may have to help the process along, she said.

The drought’s effect on waterway’s goings-on was minimal, however, according to Ron Barker, the executive director of the Fox Waterway Agency.

The Fox Waterway Agency issued 23,341 boating permits this year, a slight decrease of 264 compared to last year. It sold more B stickers, the seasonlong permits that make up the bulk of the permits issued, this year compared to last year but fewer one-day permits.

That translates to an $8,000 drop in revenue, or less than 1 percent of its budget, Barker said.

“On our full-time boaters, it had no effect,” he said. “On fishermen and day-pass users ... the drought conditions had an effect.”

Some fishermen, a lot of them using day passes, went out less this year because the lower water levels change the waterways, which they’re not as familiar with, and launching becomes more difficult, he said.

The picture is similar at other boating hot spots, he added, which can help because the boaters can’t easily take their business to other locations.

Wonder Lake, for example, was closed to recreational activities, including boating, the weekend before Labor Day because of a toxic algae bloom, Wonder Lake Master Property Owners Association Dick Hilton said.

But despite flow from Nippersink Creek – which is the main water source for Wonder Lake – being one-third of its usual amount , water levels were still high enough for boaters, Hilton added.

The association sold a small number of additional decals this year, 1301 compared to 1234 last year. It also sold 62 guest passes this year compared to 59 the year before.

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