DEPUE — A temporary dam has been built where Lake DePue connects with the Illinois River, the first step in ensuring the DePue Boat Races go on as planned next week.
A combination of hot weather, low rainfall and rising silt levels in the lake had brought the water level down to 3 feet last week, 2 feet less than would be needed for the annual American Power Boat Association National Championship Boat Races to go on as planned.
An appeal to the APBA bought the village until 2 p.m. Friday to come up with a plan to raise the water level. The village had an hour to spare on Friday when DePue Village President Eric Bryant announced plans had been approved for building a dam and pumping in the necessary water.
On Monday, Bryant said the dam was in place, and they had been pumping water into the lake from the Illinois River since 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
Bryant said the hard labor is pretty much completed, but it wasn't an easy weekend for the Men's Club of DePue, which sponsors the races, along with their crew of volunteers.
The inch of rain that poured from the skies Friday night was a mixed blessing.
"The rain cost us a couple of hours on Saturday morning," Bryant said. "It was real sloppy and slippery, and we weren't able to get down right away."
However, while the rain wasn't enough to saturate the soil, Bryant said it did soften it quite a bit so not as much water will need to be pumped in.
Over the weekend, Bryant said contractor Frank Cattani of Starline Construction in Ladd, and a crew of 45-50 volunteers worked steadily to fill and place sandbags. Bryant said the opening was about 115-120 feet and took about 250 of the large, super-sized sandbags, and another 300 of the 40-pound sandbags for filling holes.
Besides the workers filling the sandbags, Bryant said other community residents helped by bringing food and water to the workers. In addition, the local duck hunting clubs provided the pumps to bring the water in from the river.
“There are so many people that have helped us get to where we are today — from the neighboring towns and local companies that have donated the use of their pumps to the Men’s Club volunteers that have been working to get this plan approved, and our State Rep. Frank Mautino for all of his help” said Men’s Club President Steve Solorio.
"It kind of moves you," Bryant said. “This really showcases how an entire village of people can come together and make sure the tradition of the boat races continues this year and for many years to come. I am so proud to call the village of DePue my hometown.”
Bryant said he was told the water level was raised 2 inches in 11 hours of overnight pumping.
"That's about 4 inches per day, and a possibility of 40 inches in the 10 days we have available before testing on Wednesday," Bryant said. "That's 40 inches if it continues with no break downs."
Bryant said more help is needed, both from volunteers who are experienced with water pumps, or from those willing to donate. Bryant said a total cost of the project hasn't been determined, but money is needed to pay Starline Construction and for rented equipment and other expenses. For more information, "Like" the DePue Boat Races on Facebook or visit www.DePueMensClub.org.
Although tired, Bryant was upbeat on Monday.
"Things are headed the right direction," he said. "Our little plan we had — our dream— we think it's going to come true."
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Want to see how it's going?
See a video by Hugo Heredia on the progress of the Lake DePue project.