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Trouble on the Hennepin

Published: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 3:02 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 4:07 p.m. CST
Caption
(BCR photo/Donna Barker)
Tom Yourek of Wyanet stands by Lock 19, a section of the Hennepin Canal which he says is needing help to stay alive. Yourek is hoping others will join him in raising awareness to get help for the canal. A petition in support of the canal upgrade has been posted by Meagan Johnson of Wyanet on the Facebook page for Yourek's Canal Area Tackle Shop business.

WYANET — A Wyanet business owner is spearheading a grassroots efforts to get state recognition and help to address problems with Hennepin Canal Lock 19, located on the southwest edge of town.

Tom Yourek has sent letters to area representatives expressing his concern about the deteriorating condition of Lock 19. He has posted that letter and pictures of the Lock 19 area on the Facebook page for his business, Canal Area Tackle Shop.

Meagan Johnson, also of Wyanet, is helping Yourek raise awareness and support for his campaign by posting a petition on Yourek’s business Facebook page. As of press time, 25 people have signed the petition, which will be sent to the Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois Senate and Illinois House.

On Tuesday, Yourek said he has sent his letter to not only state representatives, but also posted the letter at local businesses in town and given copies to several area residents.

He has sent a copy of the letter to Gary Wagle, president of the Friends of the Hennepin Canal organization.

In his letter, Yourek described the Hennepin Canal, specifically Lock 19, as falling apart and needing help to stay alive. Lock 19 no longer has water going over the spillway, except after heavy rains. There is a breech underneath, and all the water flow is going through that breech.

There are also issues at some of the other locks to the east of Lock 19, including water spouting out of a dam, leaks in the locks that are affecting water levels and areas of the eastern branch where water levels are less than two feet, Yourek said.

The condition at the lock is also a health concern, Yourek said. As the summer heat continues, the debris accumulating at the lock will cause a stench. The water has also stopped flowing into the diversion tunnel next to the lock, which he believes will become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

In drawing attention to the problem, Yourek said he’s hopeful state representatives from the area who are in town for this weekend’s Wyanet Festival will take time to look at Lock 19 and see its condition for themselves, including the scum that has accumulated near the spillway.

“I know the state is deeply in debt, but one of Bureau County’s historic treasures is crumbling,” Yourek stated in his letter. “I believe it would be time well spent if any governmental officials coming to Wyanet to walk in the (Wyanet Festival) parade would also take some time to visit the canal from Lock 21 east to Lock 14. This area of the canal is in dire need of help.”

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