ROCK FALLS – State budget cuts have meant less maintenance of the Hennepin Feeder Canal.
“The Hennepin Canal is in danger of dewatering because the locks are leaking,” said David Druen, a local resident who advocates for the Rock River and the Hennepin. “Trees are falling in the canal. There’s nothing being done to make the canal better. If we don’t get help, we’ll have some real problems soon.”
The canal is the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which has seen its workforce dwindle by half amid state financial problems during the past decade.
Now, only a few employees maintain more than 100 miles of the Hennepin.
Last year, then-Rock Falls Mayor David Blanton proposed annexing the Hennepin, which is not inside city limits.
Under such an arrangement, the city would lease the scenic 2.2-mile waterway that leads to the main canal. IDNR has said it is on board with such a plan, saying it would be happy to have the city take over maintenance.
Mayor Bill Wescott, who took the helm in May, said he is open to annexation of the canal, but he would have to know more about the city’s costs and responsibilities of maintaining it.
This year, Western Illinois University developed a survey on the Hennepin, which the city sent out with its utility bills. A city committee has been reviewing the results, Wescott said.
Many people responded that they wanted the city to annex the canal, but the mayor is not sure whether they knew what annexation would entail.