Restore Salt Creek: Why Dam Removal Is the Best Solution

The DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup, which is staffed by The Conservation Foundation, is working to implement a plan to improve water quality, recreation and education on Salt Creek at Fullersburg Woods, while preserving the site’s history. The Master Plan for Salt Creek at Fullersburg Woods proposes to create over 1 mile of stream restoration and fish passage on 17 miles of Salt Creek by removing the existing dam and replacing it with a rock riffle.

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding the project to restore Salt Creek floating around.   Below are some facts about the project, and you can click here to view a Frequently Asked Questions page.  We also encourage you to sign up for a Virtual Open House on July 7th or July 9th to learn more details!

Restoring Salt Creek

Removing the Graue Mill Dam is the most cost-effective way to restore the stream ecology of Salt Creek.

  • Dam removal is the only way to establish fish passage for 16 species of native fish that are limited to the lower part of the watershed.
  • Removing the dam will offset current and future state mandated upgrades at several waste water treatment plants (WWTPs) saving tax and utility payers hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • The dam is a much more recent construction than the adjacent mill building and is not used to drive any of the mill operations.
  • Intensive modeling has shown that the state-mandated upgrades at WWTPs, while very expensive, will not improve water and river quality in a way that dam removal will. Such upgrades cannot bring back the native fish population.

Dam removal achieves multiple environmental and permit objectives at a fraction of the cost of the less effective wastewater treatment plant upgrades.


Projected benefits of the restoration of Salt Creek at Fullersburg Woods:

Restored Fish Biodiversity: The removal of the dam will allow 16 species of native fish access to 17 miles of upstream Salt Creek and several of its tributaries.  As well as being ecologically desirable, the increase in fish biodiversity is essential to allow upstream communities to meet their Clean Water Act goals.

Increased access to recreation and education opportunities along Salt Creek: The free flowing waterway will allow improved fishing, kayaking, canoeing and educational programming.  It will also remove the silting and odors associated with the dam’s impoundment.

Save taxpayers money through cost-effective solutions that improve water quality: Removal of the dam will allow upstream communities to forgo hugely expensive upgrades at their wastewater treatment plants.  Analysis shows that improvements to water quality due to dam removal are more effective and cheaper than plant upgrades.  Plant upgrades have been estimated at $213 million in capital costs and $8 million a year in increased running costs.   Such upgrades will marginally increase water quality but will not restore the river’s fish biodiversity.

Improve the ecological resources of Fullersburg Woods while preserving the historic Graue Mill and its operations:  The project’s scope goes beyond the dam.  Over a mile of river upstream of the dam will be restored by creating wetlands, planting native vegetation, enhancing in-stream habitat and more.   The design will also ensure that water flow can be maintained in the mill race way.

Support the Restoration of Salt Creek

We need your support to restore Salt Creek. Visit to learn more about the project and the Master Plan for Salt Creek at Fullersburg Woods. There you’ll find recorded presentations and registration for a live webinar on Tuesday July 7, 2020 at 7pm or Thursday, July 9, 2020 at 11am.   A survey will be available to submit your comments on the project following the July 7th webinar.   The Conservation Foundation is a member of the DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup in addition to providing staff to the organization, and we fully support this project!




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