Rock Island taking steps to increase safety around Rock River Steel Dam

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois — In the wake of the drowning of 5-year-old Maci Jade Chavez – who died after a boating accident near the Steel Dam on the Rock River in June – the city of Rock Island is instituting changes it hopes will prevent future tragedies.

The following action steps are planned to improve safety in and around the dam, said Larry Cook, the city’s public works director:

  • Additional signage will be put on the Milan side of the Steel Dam warning boaters of the danger of swirling currents below the structure.
  • Warning signs will be installed at public boat launches within 5 miles upstream of the dam, including at Ben Williamson Park in Rock Island and Len Brown’s North Shore Inn, Harold’s Landing and Old Green Valley Park in Moline.
  • Vegetation has been trimmed around existing signs upstream of the dam and a regular maintenance schedule to keep the vegetation in check will be followed.
  • The Rock Island Fire Department will train with other area emergency response agencies on river rescue exercises.
  • City leaders will meet with other interested parties – such as the Illinois DNR, RiverAction, Rock River Trails and the Village of Milan – to discuss responsibilities and future coordination efforts on the Rock River.
  • The city will continue to research what steps other river communities have taken to increase safety through low-head dam redesign efforts, public education, modification to boat barriers buoy installation and other preventative measures.
  • Press releases will be issued when the Rock River reaches flood stage to warn boaters of the dangers during flood conditions.
  • The city will continue to close Ben Williamson Park when the Rock River reaches flood stage.