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Historic aqueduct collapses under force of flood waters

Published: Saturday, April 20, 2013 5:00 a.m. CDT

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Compounding the property damage around Morris due to Thursday’s flooding, the historic aqueduct carrying the I&M Canal over Nettle Creek collapsed Friday morning.

“The aqueduct failed because of the increased water level in Nettle Creek,” said Dan Bell, Illinois Department of Natural Resources site superintendent for the canal.

“It’s going to have to be totally rebuilt,” he said.

The aqueduct was located between downtown Morris and Gebhard Woods State Park.

As a result of the collapse, for a time the canal west of the aqueduct site was very low, said Bell. By the afternoon Friday, however, the canal was filled and rushing again.

Nearby walking bridges along the canal collapsed, leaving a portion of the towpath impassable.

IDNR, city and “D” Construction workers were reported as trying to dam the water east of the aqueduct Friday morning.

The original aqueduct was built in 1845-1848, according to “Grundy County Illinois Landmarks Volume 1,” which the Grundy County Historical Society published in 1981.

“The present steel aqueduct was built in 1937 on old stone foundations (a handsome arch of what appears to be Aux Sable stone) and this structure continues to carry waters of the canal across Nettle Creek, in a beautiful woodland setting,” according to the volume.

ILLINOIS 47

Rushing flood waters overtook numerous bridges in Morris and around Grundy County Thursday and Friday.

Rumors circulated quickly that the Illinois 47 river bridge had been closed down Friday morning, but the bridge remained open through Friday evening. For most of the day, however, one northbound lane was closed from Pine Bluff Road north to the river bridge.

The Illinois Department of Transportation brought sand in to create a sand dike to stop the water on Illinois 47 near the bridge, said Jim Lutz, Grundy County Emergency Management Agency director.

“The bridge is still open, with the righthand northbound lane being closed due to water on the roadway. Whether or not the other northbound lane stays open mainly depends on how high the river rises. If it the river crests in the next few hours, we’re hoping it will stay open. Drivers need to be patient and use caution as there will be backups,” was posted by Morris police on its Facebook page at about 4 p.m. Friday.

TOP PRIORITY

As water rescues seemed to slow down Friday afternoon, Lutz said life safety was still the priority.

Into next week, clean-up will take priority and he will work with the Grundy County Health Department to provide information on handling mold in homes and sanitizing wells.

Lutz is already looking into whether it is possible to have the governor declare Grundy County as a disaster area. In order to receive financial assistance from the state, about $173,000 in damage in the county has to be identified. This equates to about $3.45 per person, he said.

ASSISTANCE

Individual families in need of shelter or food assistance this weekend are asked to contact the American Red Cross at (312) 729-6100.

Those wanting to volunteer their time or offer monetary donations are asked to contact Karen Nall, United Way of Grundy County executive director at knall@unitedwayofgrundycounty.com, or Julie Buck, executive director of the Community Foundation of Grundy County, at julie@cfgrundycounty.com. They will handle monetary donations making it to the proper organizations.

Morris resident Cailey Middleton is also coordinating a collection of things to entertain children of families displaced and staying at local hotels. Crayons, coloring books, bathing suits and the like can be dropped off at The Quality Inn in Morris or arrangements can be made with Middleton by calling her at (815) 341-8690.

Middleton said she would also make arrangements for anyone who wanted to donate meals, clothing or household items.

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