Saturday, April 23, 2005

River Rescue

The article in today’s JS talks about the damage done to the community of Beardstown by the Corp of Engineers. Many fear that the plans of the Corp of Engineers and approved by most of Central Illinois leadership, including the Heartland Water Resource Council, will add to the problems of increased siltation to the Illinois River. Insightful Gene Claudin continues to point out in his “letters to the editors” (Latest one appearing in the JS on 3/20/05) that the solution is to contain and to slow the water coming off our land and not speed it up. Gene points out that a lot of the silt pouring into Upper Peoria Lake comes from the PPD who own 9000 acres of mainly rolling land. (Check their budget to see how many dollars are allocated to erosion controls (not much) or ask conservation minded Bill Rutherford to take you on a tour of eroded PPD parkland.

Several thousand tons of dirt makes its way into the Illinois River each year from the many different types of construction. While many contractors and developers(many don’t) do a pretty good job of controlling erosion, why does IDOT and the City of Peoria Public Works Department not do a better job of erosion control at locations such as at the junction of Allen Road and Rt. 150 and the extension of Charter Oaks Road?

The erosion solution has never been in getting the silt out of the river, that’s impossible, the solution is to slow and contain the water so it can drop it’s sedimentation before it ever gets to the river. The government has stopped funding CREP, a program that does just that. Again is it a question of priorities or a question of management of those dollars? In an editorial dated 4/6/05, the JS, commenting on another study, this one paid for by the Heartland Water Resources Council, asks when do we stop studying and graduate. Good question. I know that the Council of River City Governments (COG, I am Peoria Counties representative) has made this question of water control a prime target. All Committees working on the same problem from both sides of the river need to get together and take more action than has been done to date. On the other hand, if you can’t get the private owners of land to cooperate as in the case of Blue Creek, we will probably keep on meeting and accomplishing little and let the Corp of Engineers continue to build islands of silt in the river.. We will have more big floods as the Corp continues to narrow the channels to contain the flooding. Mother Nature will have her say and the Corp will need more employees and money. Aren’t jobs what it’s all about?

A number of years ago, I attended a meeting where a professor with many degrees, was explaining why our rivers were filling up with silt. We know that slowing water down will cause the water to drop its sedimentation. Even a grade school kid knows that. The question was asked why we don’t build more containment bodies such as lakes and ponds. He said that doesn’t work because these bodies would fill up with silt. I said “isn’t that what we are trying to do, keep the silt on land instead of in the river? He changed the subject. Many experts have impressive credentials and lots of theories. Common sense, cooperation, monies received by proving the river is a priority and an inclusive marketing plan is the best solution to our problems of controlling the increasing siltation of the Illinois River.

If I saw the potential for personal gain, which many of those do who support the Corp of Engineers and their lock and dam rebuilding, I might support the multi-billions being spent. If fully informed, I would not. The JS has on more than one occasion asked if these projects are in the best interests of our communities. I have asked the same question. With so much information available but no sustained action, I suggest the JS Editorial Board attack this project with the same enthusiasm they showed in supporting “The Highway to Chicago”.

While not as easy to understand and the solution even harder, these projects should be very important to river communities but most people do not have enough information or do not care, figuring the government will do what it wants to anyway. Why bother to get involved when there are lots of good sitcoms on every night?

We’ve long ago identified the problem but we haven’t fully defined the solution. Time to sort out the solutions and act.

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