Crews repairing Hennepin Canal breach say the job is a “race against time”

BUREAU COUNTY, Illinois – The expected warmer weather is posing a problem for crews working on the breach at the Hennepin Canal.

The breach was reported almost two weeks ago near Tiskilwa when water began to flow into a nearby farm field.  Thankfully, no homes have been impacted.

Crews are currently working on the canal making repairs from sun up to sun down, but with spring weather coming they only have a limited amount of time.

“The Hennepin Canal is a great scenic walk, hiking, family-oriented, fishing,” says Scott De Keyser, of Phoenix Corporation of the Quad Cities. “It’s something that’s been around here my whole life.”

Now, the canal sits wounded after a breach hit the levee near Tiskilwa – the cause still unknown.

“Mother nature or a weak link in the levee itself,” says De Keyser. “We are even down to Mr. Groundhog who decided to crawl a burrow hole.”

De Keyser is one of the workers mending the break.

“I was shocked at how much water was actually exiting the job site,” De Keyser explains.

De Keyser and his team made a plan of action when they saw the breach and all the water flowing into a farm field and then into the neighboring Bureau Creek.

“When I first walked on I saw we needed to stop the water immediately and we need to fill the Hennepin Canal,” De Keyser remembers.

But their original plan to heal the break is being blocked by Mother Nature.

“I am worried about the rain tomorrow,” says De Keyser. “That does add more or possibly more damage to the levee.  We are racing against time.”

Now as warm weather starts to roll in they need materials quickly to use as bandages to cover the gap.

They’ve received shipments of blue clay to hopefully repair and reconnect the broken walkway.

“The clay is the key,” De Keyser points out. “They have a very good earth material blue clay is what they call it and it is some of the best stuff to use to hold back water.”

Scott’s team is using the best tools and materials to patch up the breach and hopefully bring life back to the historic Hennepin.

“We’re here we are going to fix it,” says De Keyser. “We are going to get it done in a very fast orderly fashion.”

Crews are receiving shipments of dirt, pipes, and everything they need to make repairs.  They hope to have it done in three months, which is the time limit the Illinois DNR is giving them.

Crews say next week’s weather is also a huge concern for the project.  They do plan to be out there six days a week until it’s fully repaired.

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