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CALEDONIA — A public meeting about a restoration project involving the Horlick Dam and the Root River is planned here for Wednesday (June 14). The meeting runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at River Bend Nature Center, 3600 N. Green Bay Road.

The meeting is coordinated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Chicago District. That agency is involved with dams on waterways in the region.

“The Horlick Dam blocks fish passage to 160 miles of upstream river and tributary habitat and 6,176 acres of wetland habitat,” according to a Corps of Engineers news release. The restoration study is being conducted to find ways for possible fish passage habitat restoration.

Horlick Dam: a lengthy history

The Horlick Dam across the Root River is located about 100 yards north of the Highway 38 (Northwestern Avenue) bridge.

A dam at that site dates back to the 1840s. The current concrete structure, controlled by Racine County, was rebuilt in 1975.

Horlick Dam, Root River watershed
A photo of the 1975 reconstruction of the Horlick Dam. – Credit: Root River Watershed Restoration Plan Horlick Dam Alternatives presentation

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Council (SEWRPC) have been working for the past decade on plans to upgrade or remove the dam, which has no commercial use (such as producing electricity or powering a mill). The DNR has called for the dam to be removed by 2024. 

Watershed restoration plan

SEWRPC planners, in 2013, released a watershed restoration presentation that identified options for the Horlick Dam:

  • Upgrade the dam to enhance spillway capacity.
  • Upgrade the dam to enhance spillway capacity and create a fish passage.
  • Partial removal of the dam.
  • Full removal of the dam.
Horlick Dam, Root River watershed
Presentation cover page – Credit: Root River Watershed Restoration Plan Horlick Dam Alternatives presentation

“Doing nothing is not an option,” SEWRPC planners reported at the time.

View the 2013 Horlick Dam-Root River watershed restoration plan presentation online for a more in-depth look.

Paul Holley is retired from careers in journalism, public relations and marketing but not from life. These days, he pretty much writes about what he feels like writing. You may contact him directly at:...