More than 30 signs and buoys are being installed along the St. Joseph and Maumee rivers to promote awareness of the dangers of low-head (small) dams.
A committee made up of representatives from The Pelorus Project, the City of Fort Wayne (Utilities, Community Development and Fire), Northeast Indiana Regional Coordinating Council, Northeast Indiana Water Trails, Tri-State Watershed Alliance, A Better Fort and The Indiana Silverjackets (a voluntary inter-agency natural hazard mitigation team working to protect life, property and resources) came together after last year’s tragic drowning of a kayaker to work to improve safety along the rivers.
The signs will warn of the dangers of dams and the strong recirculating currents created just downstream of the dams. The signs and buoys will be placed in the water, on the riverbanks and on bridges near the St. Joseph dam, the Hosey Street dam and the Leo Cedarville dam.
The Pelorus Project was formed last year after the tragic death of Sean Hiebel. On June 23, Hiebel and two friends were kayaking on the Maumee River and capsized after going over the Hosey Dam. Sean pulled one of his friends to safety but was not able to save himself. Sean’s friends and family formed The Pelorus Project in order to encourage and promote initiatives to make the rivers a safer place for recreation.
“We feel the pain of Sean’s death every day,” said Katie Hiebel, Sean’s sister. “It has become our mission to prevent future tragedies on our rivers, by educating the communities of the dangers of low-head dams. Sean would be proud of the work we have accomplished to ensure river enthusiasts, like himself, are safe and can enjoy our rivers for years to come.”
Warning signs are not required by state law but nationwide many communities recognize the need for education about the dangers of low-head dams. The Fort Wayne-area is the first community in Indiana to install warning signs and work to promote safety for recreational river users.
In addition to the warning signs and buoys, The Pelorus Project has created maps, which are available at river access points, about the hazards people can face while boating or fishing along the rivers. More information about the Pelorus Project can be found at www.thepelorusproject.org.