Echo Lake dam being opened to ease pressure; could slow progress downstream, says sheriff

From left: Salem Lakes village administrator Patrick Casey, Kenosha County Emergency Services Director Lt. Horace Staples and Sheriff David Beth.

Note: Additional information added as of 8:06 p.m. — DH

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials have begun releasing water from the Echo Lake in Burlington.

While that may help ease pressure on the dam that could lead to a dam break, some are concerned the release also could increase river levels downstream and slow the Fox River’s retreat to its normal banks.

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth addressed the dam situation at a meeting in Silver Lake this afternoon in which county and Salem Lakes officials addressed questions from the public and media.

Beth said he was at a meeting in Burlington earlier Friday where DNR officials said the release would be done gradually with the goal of not adversely effecting points down stream, like Western Kenosha County. Rumors that the dam has broke have been persistent, but the dam is still intact. However, dirt embankments adjacent to the dam are wearing away.

“They believe that will take care of it,” Beth said of the slow release and pressure on the dam. He said he believes it could slow down the receding of flood waters here, however.

Readings at the New Munster gauge, the first National Weather Service gauge downstream of Burlington, as of 1:30 p.m. still show a very slow lessening of river level. But some residents farther downstream in Silver Lake are saying this afternoon that the feel water is still rising on their property.

Beth, Kenosha County Emergency Services Director Lt. Horace Staples and Salem Lakes village administrator Patrick Casey held the meeting with the public and media at Silver Lake Village Hall.

Staples urged people with damage to their homes and property to report it to the county at 262-605-7924. This is required to establish the need and amount of flood aid.

Staples also encouraged farmers to report damage.

The county received about 7.75 inches of rain, Staples said.

“That’s a lot of rain in a very short time,” Staples said. “We’ve done this before. The Fox River tends to flood every spring, but we haven’t seen these kind of levels since 2008.”

Sheriff Beth said an additional 5,000 sandbags are making their way to the county. Meanwhile, there are still some bags available for filling at Silver Lake Village Hall and at the county’s gravel pit in Wilmot.

Deputies are rechecking homes visited earlier to make sure all is well and that people have not changed their mind about evacuating, Staples said.

Both Beth and Staples asked motorist to respect barricades set up where water is over roads.

“Don’t do it,” Beth said. “Don’t make another emergency situation by you going past the barricade.”

Staples asked that drivers who do choose to drive through standing water do so slowly to keep wave action down and minimize damage to surrounding homes.

“If the barricades are up and you really need to drive through that area drive at a slow rate,” Staples said.

Casey gave a rough estimate that about 100 homes in the village have suffered flooding or water damage, but there have been no serious injuries, death or people unaccounted for attributed to the flood.

“We’ve been very lucky that way,” Casey said.


One Comment

  1. Matt says:

    As much as it may suck for those of us downstream, if that dam breaks, it will be an absolute disaster!!

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