Stratton-Bolger Lock and Dam will be open Fourth of July weekend despite restricted schedule

By LINDSAY GLOOR - lgloor@shawmedia.com Published: Saturday, June 17, 2017 11:52 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, June 17, 2017 11:55 p.m. CDT
Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com Lockmaster John Palmieri talks with people on a boat Friday at the William G. Stratton-Thomas A. Bolger Lock and Dam near McHenry. — Sarah Nader

McHENRY – An average of 17,000 boats pass through the William G. Stratton-Thomas A. Bolger Lock and Dam annually, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Typically, the lock is open every day from May to October. But this schedule is restricted for the 2017 season – the lock is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Given the already fickle nature of the northern Illinois boating season, state Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, who represents much of McHenry County and the northwestern part of Lake County, received numerous complaints about the restricted schedule. In a post on her website, Althoff explained that a shortage of personnel was the reason behind the inconvenience.

She said one employee who operated the lock and dam retired, and another unexpectedly gave notice. The DNR has been conducting interviews to try to fill the spots in order to open the lock full time, but so far, candidates have not met the department’s criteria.

“This is some serious machinery,” Althoff said. “Who would have ever guessed one person would have retired and another leave at this crucial time?”

She said that because the positions are unionized, open jobs must first be posted internally. However, the department was granted an emergency tender so that the spots could be made open to the public.

“I am pleased with the Department of Natural Resources. This is when government works pretty well together. We want people to enjoy boating season,” Althoff said.

One candidate is training as a result of the emergency status, and another should be hired soon, Althoff said. She estimated that the required two will be operational by July 1. If that is not the case, Althoff said another 60-day emergency tender will be granted, extending the urgency to October.

Regardless, the lock will be open during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Althoff said.