Daywatch: Historical and environmental interests clash at Graue Mill

Good morning, Chicago.

Hydrologist Stephen McCracken has dedicated his career to conserving river ecosystems. But no project would consume more of his life than the historic Graue Mill dam.

In 2007, he surveyed the murky waters surrounding the Oak Brook structure. Within a few years, he was certain that the dam — adjacent to the 172-year-old mill — was the culprit of the river’s deteriorating ecosystem. It should have been a relatively simple project: Dozens of dams have been quietly removed across Illinois amid environmental and safety concerns. Instead, it took over a decade.

A group of determined community members believed the dam was an integral piece of the Graue Mill. To remove it was to strip away a historic hallmark in the village, they argued.

Meanwhile, McCracken and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County were determined to remove the impoundment. Both sides were unrelenting.

The dam was finally removed in November. But the DuPage Graue Mill Corp. — which had operated the site for more than 70 years — remains embroiled in a bitter legal battle with the Forest Preserve District as environmental and historical interests collide.

It’s a portrait of a sweeping effort to improve river ecosystems across the state, and the fallout from setting aside the past.

Read the full story from the Tribune’s Kate Armanini.

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