Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Guest Blog- Another environmental disaster waiting for some intervention!

Here is another environmental disaster waiting for some intervention!
My column in todays newspaper -

Indiana Continues Fly Dumping in Illinois

A definition:
Fly dumping - the dumping of any waste material on public or private property without a permit.

The Kankakee River starts near South Bend Indiana and flows West into Illinois, about 60 miles south of Chicago. This area has a rich history however, even with heightened awareness of the importance of clean water and air, the Kankakee River is still threatened by greed and neglect. In the past, the Kankakee River area was so rich in natural resources that people could not fathom how the buffalo, deer, beaver, muskrat and other fur bearing animals could ever be diminished. The Kankakee was also home to migratory birds including ducks, pheasant, and geese that have been described as ‘turning the sky black with their numbers.’
 The Potawatomi Indians were early inhabitants of what became known as the ‘Grand Marsh.’

Back in the early 1900’s the State of Indiana decided that the Kankakee River was a big nuisance. The river flowed through a vast marshland that people in power looked at with distain. The swamp had no value in their eyes. It didn’t matter that the marshland gave unbelievable resources to a myriad of living creatures – man included. For centuries the Kankakee marshland gave abundant natural resources, but would soon be raped and pillaged in the name of progress. Underneath the slow moving water was black dirt that had been undisturbed for centuries. This black soil was perfect for agriculture. Influential landowners persuaded Indiana politicians that the best use of the land was to grow corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. This required the marsh to be drained - and so it began. The State of Indiana began cutting channels into the Kankakee River and draining the water.

Indiana sold the soul of the Kankakee marsh.

The drainage was not enough to satisfy the thirst for crops. The river was not only drained, but Indiana began to turn the curving and winding Kankakee River into one long, straight channel for miles and miles. Now crops could be planted right up to the channel - and every last square foot of land utilized in the name of progress – and profit. By 1923, the Kankakee River was an unrecognizable ditch. Gone were the curves and oxbows of a healthy river. Gone were the marshlands that served as home to wildlife and migratory birds.

Since rivers do not recognize state lines, the Kankakee begins in Indiana but continues to flow into Illinois. If you look at Google maps and view the river east of Momence, you will clearly see the difference between the Indiana side of the river - and the Illinois side. In Illinois the river curves and bends like a healthy river should, while in Indiana the channel is as straight as when it was dug back in 1923. Man had tamed and trampled on the Grand Marsh with disastrous results.

One of the biggest problems is one we cannot see. The Illinois side of the river looks healthy, but it is not. Due to the channelization of the river in Indiana, there are tons of sand and sediment that are washed down the river channel from Indiana to Illinois every year. This sediment from Indiana has destroyed fishing habitats, increased flooding, and is choking the Illinois portion of the Kankakee River. This fly dumping started almost a century ago and continues today. Even today Indiana dredges their portion of the river to remove the build up of sediment – and continues to call it improvements, just like they did 100 years ago.
We can’t change the past, but Indiana is now doubling down on pouring silt and sediment into the Illinois portion of the Kankakee. There are plans to create a huge gravel quarry upstream of the Kankakee. This quarry has permits to pump millions of gallons of water every day into a tributary of the Kankakee River.

 Now I’m assuming that since this water will be coming out of a rock quarry, this water will contain silt, sediment and solid particles – just what the Kankakee River does not need.

We don’t need every last bushel of corn and beans, and we don’t need every last truckload of gravel – especially when it will cost us a river in exchange.

The Kankakee River was created by an 'Act of God' - but it sure seems like Indiana is trying to wipe it off the map.

Arlo Kallemeyn
The Shopper Publisher, and big fan of leaving rivers to do what they do best.