Illinois Public Media News
Sewers are among the basic of city services --- and one of the least exciting, until something goes wrong. City officials in Champaign and Urbana have seen enough flooding over the years, that they're proposing a new fee to pay for maintaining and improving the storm sewer system --- a fee already used by about a dozen Illinois cities. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows has more on the storm water utility fee.
(Photo courtesy of Nancy Taylor)
Illinois is getting more than $7.7 million to help cover the costs of repairing roads and bridges damaged by last year's flooding and windstorms.
Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin announced Monday that the money will be coming from the U.S. Department of Transportation's emergency-relief funds.
The Illinois Department of Transportation will dole out more than $4.7 million to help northwest Illinois communities affected last July by strong wind and rains that totaled more than 12 inches. That's meant to defray costs of repairing drainage and roadway washouts, in addition to slope failures.
Southern Illinois communities affected by widespread heavy rain and flooding last spring largely along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers will get roughly $3 million.
(AP Photo/Jim Suhr)
Starved Rock is located in Utica, Illinois - a two hour drive southwest from Chicago. It's a popular destination for fishing, rock climbing, hiking and picnicking.
Tony Giordano said a new silica sand mine adjacent to the park would mean new jobs and could inject $9 million into the local economy. He's the president of Mississippi Sand, the company proposing the mine. It mines a special kind of sandstone found in this part of the state and sell it to companies who frac for natural gas around the United States.
Giordano said he's not surprised that people are concerned about what the mine could mean for Starved Rock.
"We don't believe in any way that our utilization of our proposed parcel will negatively impact anybody within the park," he said. Giordano added that regulatory bodies are in place to make sure of that, too.
But environmentalists worry about its effects on the local ecology. Mike Phillips is a Geology Professor at Illinois Valley Community College and said the mine would hurt 73 acres of wetlands.
"The process of creating the mine will de-water part of that wetland initially and then the mine plan has them mining most of it," Phillips said.
Phillips said the aesthetic value of the park is at risk, too, "If there's noise, if there's dust, if you can feel vibrations from the occasional explosions at the mine - what would the value of that be? And that's very, very difficult to determine."
Phillips said he and many others he's spoken to learned about the proposed mine in November. He's hoping LaSalle County will slow the process down of issuing permits to the mining company and that they'll first make a comprehensive assessment of how a mine may impact the ecology and economy of Starved Rock, as many people's make their livings off the park's tourism.
The LaSalle County Board voted unanimously for the mine in December and they could make a final recommendation next week.
(Photo by Todd Ryburn/flickr)
Different communities are asking residents to recycle their Christmas trees instead of throwing them out.
The Champaign County Forest Preserve has set up tree drop off points at three of its forest preserves in Mahomet, Penfield, and Homer. Trees can be dropped off through Jan. 20.
The forest preserve's Director of Natural Resources, Daniel Olson said some of the donated trees are put underwater in lakes and rivers, so that fish can have a place to hide. Meanwhile, he said other donated trees are used to provide nutrients to existing vegetation.
"We chip a lot of it into mulch, and then we do put it around our tree that helps with the health of the tree," Olson said. "It helps with the longevity of how long that tree will be around."
Olson said tree giving appears to be down this year, but he said he expects it to pick up soon.
Urbana is also reminding people to recycle their Christmas trees this season. Each year, the city collects around 1,600 Christmas trees for its annual recycling program.
Urbana Environmental Sustainability Manager Bart Hagston said during the first couple of weeks of January, residents should leave their trees out on the curb before 6 a.m. on days when their recycling is picked up.
"Well, to preserve landfill space, we like to keep these trees out of the waste stream and they also help to provide material which can be used for landscaping projects and that's why we like to send them out to the landscaping recycling center where they'll be grounded up," Hagston said.
People who do not live in Urbana can still recycle their Christmas trees through the city by dropping them off at the Urbana Recycling Center at 1210 E University Ave.
The city of Champaign has a similar recycling program in place from Jan. 2 through Jan. 13. Residents can leave their trees within four feet of the curb by 6:00 a.m. on their scheduled collection date.
Danville city officials will also be collecting Christmas trees from curbs from Jan. 3 through Jan. 13. The trees will be collected and processed through the city's yard waste recycling program. Questions may be directed to Danville Public Works - Solid Waste Division at 431-2288.
People interested in recycling their trees in any of these communities are reminded not to include any extra debris, like tree stands or ornaments.
An environmental group in Illinois says it's happy that the federal government is following Illinois' lead in requiring power plants to cut down on mercury levels.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it would force hundreds of the nation's power plants to control mercury and other toxic pollutants.
Max Muller with Environment Illinois said the state passed its own mercury restrictions in 2006, and they have proven to be successful.
"We've shown that in Illinois that mercury can be reduced cheaply, that the lights aren't going to go out, and it does in fact yield very good results in terms of decreasing mercury pollution on the environment that harms health," Muller said.
Muller said the new federal standards are expected to cut toxic mercury pollution from power plants by more than 90 percent.
But the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has come out against the plan, saying it will destroy jobs and raise energy rates.
Water officials in Decatur say that steady, recent rains have raised Lake Decatur's level enough for them to consider ending mandatory water-use restrictions.
Decatur Water Management director Keith Alexander told the Herald & Review in Decatur (http://bit.ly/ukDw2p ) on Wednesday that the lake's water level is just over 611 feet above sea level.
That's still a little low but within a foot or two of the typical winter water level.
Alexander said that if the water level reaches 611.5 feet, restrictions could be lifted.
The city put restrictions on water use in place in October as parts of central Illinois endured drought.
Champaign Joins Consortium Against EPA Over PCB's in Clinton Landfill
The city of Champaign has joined possible legal action against the U-S Environmental Protection Agency regarding a plan for the storage of toxic substances.
A research project studying a method to keep carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere got down to business this week. After three years of preparations, the Illinois Basin-Decatur project began injecting CO2 from an ethanol plant into the ground more than a mile deep.
Robert Finley with the Illinois Geological Survey at the University of Illinois' Prairie Research Institute said the CO2 injections will continue for another three years, until a million metric tons of the gas is embedded in the massive Mount Simon underground sandstone formation. Finley said Mount Simon offers a big potential at a place for storing CO2 emissions.
"The Mt Simon sandstone at Decatur is 1,650 feet thick, and we'll be storing only in the lower several hundred feet of this unit, and this rock unit is quite laterally extensive," Finley explained. "It covers most of Illinois, southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky."
The Illinois Basin-Decatur project is located on the Archer Daniels Midland campus in Decatur, and uses CO2 from an ADM ethanol plant. The U of I's Illinois State Geological Survey is the lead agency for the project, which is one of seven around the country funded by the U-S Department of Energy, and the second to begin actual sequestration. Finley said the carbon sequestration process has started smoothly --- and the long-term question is whether the gas can be pumped underground continuously without leaking.
He said their findings will be applied to another, larger carbon sequestration project, for which ADM is taking the lead. A training and education center for the larger project is being built at Decatur's Richland Community College.
Eventually, Finley said the experience and knowledge gained from the projects at Decatur can help other carbon sequestration projects --- like the FutureGen project which will bury CO-2 emissions from a coal plant in western Illinois.
Federal Grant to Help CUMTD Purchase Hybrid Buses
Several Illinois communities are getting a portion of a $5 million federal transportation grant to purchase hybrid buses. The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District will use some of that money to replace its older buses powered by gasoline and diesel.
Illinois' list of areas placed on quarantine for the emerald ash borer now reaches from the state's northern border down to its south-central section.
The state Department of Agriculture has expanded the quarantine with an additional 16 counties, plus new areas in two other counties. The quarantine for the tree-killing insect now affects counties in all parts of the state except western and deep southern Illinois. The emerald ash borer feeds on the inner bark of ash trees, and has devastated the trees where the insect is unchecked.
University of Illinois entomologist Phil Nixon says the quarantine tries to check the spread of the insect, by preventing the transport of wood that could carry it to new areas.
"With the quarantines, the state police have the option of stopping vehicles that are transporting wood or plant material, determine where the point of origin is and (take) options in that direction. Similarly, various campgrounds can monitor firewood and actually have some ability to refuse entrance of people who are bringing in firewood from quarantined areas."
Nixon says insecticides are available to prevent the emerald ash borer from getting established, for both commercial and home use.
"We recommend that people consider doing preventive treatment of their trees if an infestation has found within 15 miles of their locale", says NIxon.
The emerald ash borer was accidentally introduced to North America in the 1990s, and first spotted in Illinois three years ago. Nixon says woodpeckers eat the insects, and some local species of parasitic wasps have started preying on it as well --- but those have not been enough to check its spread.
New counties added to the emerald ash borer quarantine list are DeWitt, Marion, Stark, Effingham, Clark, Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Fayette, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt and Shelby counties. Portions of Bureau and Marshall counties not previously included in the quarantine also were added. Counties already under quarantine are Boone, Champaign, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Ford, Grundy, Iroquois, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, Lee, Livingston, McHenry, McLean, Ogle, Putnam, Vermilion, Will, Winnebago and Woodford.
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