Illinois Public Media News
Zoning rules for wind turbine farms in Champaign County won the approval of a county board committee Monday night on a 7 to 2 vote.
The Environmental and Land Use Committee endorsed rules regulating large arrays of wind turbines up to 500 feet tall on agricultural land. Currently, Champaign County rules only cover small individual wind turbines or windmills.
Committee members decided to cut the size of the buffer required between wind farms and the nearest dwelling. The proposal called for at least a 1500-foot buffer. But committee Chair Barb Wysocki says a 1200-foot buffer is more common, and preferred by developers. "The developers who were at the meeting admitted that 1500 feet would not necessarily be a deal-breaker," says Wysocki. "But it would encourage them to rethink the configuration of the wind turbines and their placement in Champaign County.
County Planning and Zoning Director John Hall says he's hoping for quick county board approval next month of the wind turbine rules, so that developers already looking to set up wind farms in Champaign County can take quick action.
In the meantime, the wind farm zoning proposal remains with the Environmental and Land Use Committee for public comment. If a local government in the county decides to protest the rules, that would force a super-majority vote on the county board for the proposal to pass --- 21 votes instead of 14.
It was a long shot, but veterinarians at the University of Illinois were not able to save a rare whooping crane that had broken a leg. A spokeswoman for the College of Veterinary Medicine says the endangered bird died Wednesday night of complications not directly related to the injury. The college's wildlife clinic had scheduled surgery on the injured leg for Thursday. The crane was found in McLean County, where its flock had stopped on its migration from Florida.
Mahomet Aquifer Study Short of Funds
A major study on the Mahomet Aquifer has been left unfinished because its state funding was cut off. Now the consortium that oversees the project is trying to raise the money to complete it.
There are fewer than 500 whooping cranes in the world. And on Thursday afternoon, a veterinary surgeon at the University of Illinois Urbana campus will operate on one of them.
The young crane was found earlier this month in a field near the central Illinois town of Gridley, with a badly broken leg. It's part of a carefully monitored whooping crane flock based in Wisconsin. Dr. Avery Bennett of the U of I Veterinary Teaching Hospital says the bird's lower left leg bones are broken in "countless" places. But he says chances for recovery are good.
Bennett says he plans to stabilize the broken leg bones with carbonized rods. He says they'll be attached on the outside of the leg with pins connecting to the ends of the broken bones. Bennett says while the bones are mending, the bird's weight will actually be carried by the external rods, allowing it walk around until the broken bones knit.
Such devices are called external skeleton fixation devices. And Bennett says they're essential, because the whooping crane must get on its feet as soon as possible to survive.
The crane's broken leg bones could be healed in about a month. During that time, Bennett says they face another challenge --- how to keep the whooping crane from getting too used to human contact. He says if the crane loses its healthy fear of humans, it may spend the rest of its life in a zoo.
Officials at Archer Daniels Midland's massive Decatur ethanol plant are showing off an 84 million dollar project to study a way to keep more carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere.
ADM is the first of seven sites around the nation to begin the process of storing more than a million tons of CO2 deep underground rather than letting it escape into the air. Researchers point to CO2 as a key factor in global warming.
Illinois State Geological Survey director Robert Finley says the experiment is beginning with a test well dug more than a mile into the rock formations under the plant to see how well it can handle the injected gas.
"With a relatively pure source of CO2 coming from ADM's ethanol fermentation facility here in Decatur combined with excellent geology suitable for testing carbon sequestration immediately below the Decatur area and in fact throughout central Illinois, that gives us an opportunity to carry out this test here at Decatur," Finley said.
It'll be another year before ADM will actually inject large amounts of CO2. Finley believes the Illinois Basin can hold many times more carbon dioxide than ADM, the proposed FutureGen coal plant and other industries in central Illinois can produce.
The debate over cleanup plans at the 5th and Hill gas plant site continued Tuesday night during a Champaign City Council study session. City Council members generally support the plan --- but only up to a point.
Some neighbors of the old manufactured gas plant site say Ameren's year-long multi-million dollar cleanup plan fails to address contaminants leaking into groundwater that may appear in flooded basements. But project manager Brian Martin says follow-up testing at the request of those neighbors has found no sign of toxic chemicals in yards or basements. He says testing in basements, of sump pump water, and soil vapors turned up nothing to cause concern about exposure.
The Illinois EPA is backing Ameren's cleanup plan. But Claudia Lennhoff of Champaign County Healthcare Consumers says the agency needs to conduct additional testing to see if toxic vapors are escaping from groundwater into basements. She says other state environmental agencies conduct vaporization testing, and the Illinois EPA should do the same.
While generally backing the cleanup plan, City Council members put off a vote directing staff to starting planning for the eventual redevelopment of the 5th and Hill site. Many members say they want to see how the cleanup goes, before committing the city to anything. Mayor Jerry Schweighart says "there are too many unknowns at this time".
State forestry officials will conduct a controlled burn of prairie grass at the Newport Chemical Depot in western Indiana, where 275,000 gallons of deadly nerve agent was destroyed under an international treaty.
The Indiana Division of Forestry will burn about 336 acres of native prairie grass Friday or Saturday, depending on the weather, at the depot about 20 miles north of Terre Haute. The agency is also holding workshops on fire management. Officials say the controlled burns create habitats attractive to wildlife. The Depot has maintained the prairie for the past 15 years.
Destruction of the VX nerve agent stored at Newport was completed last August.
Everyone is spending much more on energy these days, and the University of Illinois is no exception. Curbing the cost is just one goal of a new Office of Sustainability on the Urbana campus. It's meant to draft and supervise new conservation efforts, but also to reduce the amount of pollution the University creates - whether it's exhaust from Abbott Power Plant or old computers and other electronic waste. The office's first director is Richard Warner, a wildlife ecology professor and formerly an administrator in the College of ACES. He tells AM 580's Tom Rogers that his first priority is simply to take stock of all the programs already in place.
Bill Hammack has been doing a lot of thinking about east-central Illinois' water supply. You may know him as WILL's "Engineer Guy," bringing complex scientific issues closer to home. All this week, Bill is taking a look at how we use water, how much we have and how we manage it for the future. The different ways we use water at home may seem obvious - but in Part 4, Bill finds some ways we may never have suspected.
Experts predict that in the next 20 to 30 years, a growing United States will need 30 to 60 percent more water. Growth will be even more explosive in other parts of the world, and the need for clean, usable water may someday be a staggering political issue. AM 580's Tom Rogers spoke with University of Illinois professor Mark Shannon, who's watching that potential crisis unfold.
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