‘Avoid this area at all cost,’ Rock Island warns boaters

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The City of Rock Island warned boaters to avoid an area of the Rock River, nearly a year after a 5-year-old girl died and three people were rescued near the Steel Dam.

The boat barrier near Milan is not in place due to the high river and the dam is hard to spot.

“Due to the continued high river level on the Rock River the City of Rock Island is recommending boaters avoid the Rock River west of Ben Williamson Park,” the city posted to its Facebook page on Tuesday morning. “The boat barrier buoys are currently not in place as a result of the high river, thus making the Steel Dam hard to see. The high river levels combined with the strong current makes this area extremely dangerous. Avoid this area at all cost.” 

The city said once the river level drops below 9.5 feet, the boat barrier buoys will be installed. 

Last June, Melissa Chavez-Huston and her three kids went over the Steel Dam while boating. Chavez-Huston and her two sons were rescued, but 5-year-old Maci Jade Chavez got separated from rescuers when their boat also went over the dam. Her body was found five days later near Andalusia.

An investigation by Local 4 News after that tragedy revealed that the boat barrier should have been put in place on the river upstream from the Steel Dam on May 15. High water was blamed for the delay in installation.

There have been at least four fatalities at the Steel Dam since 2007.

The Department of Natural Resources offered these tips for boating safety on OurQuadCities.com.

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