TV-6 Investigation: Milan Steel Dam Boat Barrier Broken For Week - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

TV-6 Investigation: Milan Steel Dam Boat Barrier Broken For Weeks


A key safety measure was not in place during this weekend's fatal jet ski accident at the Milan Steel dam after floods washed a boat barrier away.

Two men from Cambridge were jet skiing in a marked no boating area near the dam.

They both got trapped, one was rescued and is recovering, the other drowned.

TV-6 has been investigating the boat barrier which is actually the very last warning system in the water marking the dam.

The Steel dam and the Sears dam further downstream are both required to have boat barriers in place.

Essentially cables strung across the river with orange buoys on them in front of the dam.

It's Rock Island's responsibility to put them in place and maintain them.

Because the dams store water for the city's hydro-electric power plant.

However, both barriers are currently washed up on shore.

"We're required to put that up by may 15 every year, May through October, if for some reason we can't put it up we notify the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that we don't have it up," says Rock Island Public Works Director Randy Tweet.

He says his crews couldn't get the barriers in place by May 15. There's too much water flowing down the Rock River. They had to wait till mid June, and both barriers broke about a week after being installed.

"Once you get high water, the current, and once you get debris, it gets swept away, a tree in that current is just going to snap the line," says Tweet.

Video from this weekend's rescue show the barrier where it rests now. Sitting along the shore instead of standing guard against the dam. It's still there because Tweet says there's too much water to make any repairs.

"We can't work on it until the river falls below 9.8 feet, and the current projects only go out a week and it's scheduled to level off just above that during that time frame."

Even if it had been in place, it's not clear if it could have prevented the accident from occurring. Federal rules require the barriers, but those rules don't say the barrier has to act as a safety line.

"It's like the buoys you see in a pool between the deep end and the shallow end, it's meant to be a warning," says Tweet.

He sent letters to the federal government letting it know the barriers were late getting up, and he sent more letters when they broke. The other warning signs are still in place.

"There's a number of warning signs upriver from that, and some buoys also that say no boating zone, and this is basically the third warning."

A warning that will not be in place until the water goes down.

Although it's Rock Island's responsibility to put up the boat barriers, the two dams belong to the State of Illinois.

The state completed a study several years ago with proposals to make all dams like this safer for the public.

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