TECUMSEH, Mo. – An online petition has been started demanding action be taken on the dam at Dawt Mill following the death of a 13-year-old girl last weekend.
Chloe Butcher, of Springfield, drowned after she was sucked under by the strong current flowing through an opening in the dam. The Missouri Highway Patrol report says Butcher was attempting to help another swimmer.
“The fact that that happened is probably the hardest thing that any of us have ever felt or dealt with,” says Dawt Mill marketing director, Jennifer Porter, “and our hearts and prayers go out to anyone who has been touched by this.”
The breach in the more-than-100-year-old dam occurred following flooding in 2013.
Porter says Dawt Mill began the process to make changes to the opening but was discouraged by various government agencies due to potential impacts on the environment.
“If you’re discouraged by an official,” she says, “I think from anyone’s perspective that’s a ‘no.’
“That’s why we did the one thing we could do, which is to extend the landing to make it easier for people to come off the water,” she says.
Porter says Dawt Mill took other safety precautions such as putting up signs around the dam and constantly reminding floaters to stay away from the opening.
She says floaters are also required to sign a waiver that states the potential dangers associated with the dam.
“We had some initial discussions after the breach,” says Rock Presley, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Division, “there was never a plan to repair it.”
Presley says the Corps isn’t responsible for maintaining the dam and would only issue the permit required for work, such as building a road to make repairs to the dam or taking it down.
“Anything that involves placing a fill material or the discharge of fill,” he says.
The cost of taking action on the dam is still unknown, but Porter says Dawt Mill will soon meet with several government agencies to see what steps can be taken.
“It may take a few meetings to get all of the answers we need,” she says, “…but as soon as we have them, based on their recommendations, we want to do that.”
The petition calling for action now has more than 1000 signatures.