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More dredging on the Kankakee

Here we go again, another plan to re-dredge a portion of the Kankakee River in Indiana, while Illinois continues to battle the inflow of sand and sediment.

Jim Sweeney, one of the great guardians of the Kankakee River on the Indiana side and a member of the national board of directors of the Izaak Walton League, has an extended look at the latest proposal to re-dredge the aportion of the Kankakee in Indiana, under the guise, of course, of the threat of flooding.

Time is of the essence here, as one meeting is set for next week.

This is an extended and ranging email from Sweeney, but if you are a Kankakee supporter (hunter, fisherman, birder), it’s worth the effort to read it. Then do your part.

The body is posted below.

Everyone– thank you for your interest in the Kankakee River and restoration issues. I have received several good messages from people that will likely oppose whatever the Farm Bureau recommends for their “improvement” of the Kankakee River and from people interested in reviving the Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge proposal.

The official status of the Refuge is “approved” but the real status is that planning is suspended without any set plans to resume it. Regional USFWS officials currently prefer to support the ongoing Kankakee North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) project.

This is a great project and should be supported but the Refuge could provide 30,000 acres of additional PUBLIC land for conservation and recreation like hunting, fishing, and birdwatching.

I support both and I hope you agree.

There is an incredible potential for river and floodplain restoration along the Kankakee in Indiana and it can be done in a way that benefits everyone. It can greatly reduce flooding and erosion, improve water quality, protect developed areas, benefit hundreds of species of plants and animals AND build a local tourism industry. Over 15 million Americans live within a two hour drive of the Kankakee River.

The first step is to prevent the Farm Bureau and drainage interests from “improving” the river again as it was first “improved” 100 years ago.

As is suggested in the original Farm Bureau e-mail included below, the drainers want to continue to co-opt a public resource as their own private utility.

Indiana residents, please send a letter or an e-mail to all the IN officials below. Tell them the river and floodplain must be managed in a way that would provide for ALL the benefits of a healthy river for ALL the public. Tell them to oppose any dredging of the river and to oppose any clearing of the banks of the river and its tributaries. Any such work justified to address a serious problem can be done on a site-specific basis.

Tell them long term solutions to the flooding problems in both states lie in upstream retention of floodwaters and wetland restoration. Tell them current Indiana management of the river is degrading the high quality Illinois portion of the river. Tell them the Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is a big part of the solution to the chronic problems facing the river.

Illinois residents, please tell the IL DNR and the Kankakee River Basin Partnership that they need to stand up to the drainage interests in Indiana or the river will continue to degrade.

Sam Flood, Acting Director

Illinois Dept. Natural Resources

One Natural Resources Way ,

Springfield, IL 62702

P 217-785-0075

F 217-785-9236

J.R. Black (Chair)

Kankakee River Basin Partnership

9 Northview

Kankakee , IL 60901


For links to Illinois elected officials in the Kankakee watershed-

* * * * *

If you can, please send these notes before July 23rd when the Farm Bureau will be meeting with local state legislators and officials to develop their plan. Organizational letters are encouraged as well.

Please call if you need more information and share this with others interested in bringing back a small part of an incredible natural resource. (A 30,000 acre NWR would be about 6% of the original Grand Kankakee Marsh.)

Jim Sweeney


“As to dredging the river in Indiana, it will be noticed that God never made a straight river, and I don’t think man can improve on his general plans.” Edwin Beardsley

Indiana House Members

District 4

Ed Soliday



(219) 548-7220

District 15

Donald J Lehe

2973 E 1100 S


(765) 563-3620

District 16

Eric A Gutwein



(219) 866-5828

District 17

Nancy Dembowski


KNOX , IN 46534

(574) 772-3876

District 19

Shelli VanDenBurgh

6415 W 109th Ave.

Crown Point , IN 46307

District 20

Thomas Dermody

615 W. Maple Ln

Laporte , IN 46350


Indiana Senate Members

District 5

Edward E Charbonneau



(219) 462-0031

District 6

Sue Landske

14420 Morse

Cedar Lake , IN 46303


District 7

Brandt E Hershman



District 8

Jim Arnold

5698 West Johnson Road

LaPorte , IN 46350

District 9

Ryan Mishler


BREMEN , IN 46506

(574) 546-3859

District 18

Thomas K Weatherwax



(574) 753-3060

Robert Carter

Indiana Department of Natural Resources

402 W. Washington St. Rm. W256

Indianapolis, IN 46204



Region 3

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Regional Director

Robyn Thorson

1 Federal Drive

Ft. Snelling, MN 55111


Jody Melton, Director

Kankakee River Basin Commission

6100 Southport Road

Portage, IN 46368

(219) 763-6060

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Original messages– mine and from the Farm Bureau

It looks to me like there will be an another attempt to ‘clean up’ the Kankakee in Indiana. Most likely another proposal to snag and clear the river.

Please share this with others that are concerned with the health of the river. Maybe we can nip this in the bud before it gets going.

I think most elected officials are beginning to get the message that flood protection begins upstream and not by dumping it on the neighbors downstream.

The message should be “prevent flooding by storing the water upstream on the river and not dumping it on your neighbors” and “Indiana management of the river is destroying a high quality river in Illinois.”

I will gather the names and address of the Kankakee River basin elected officials and share it with you. It would be great to get some letters to the legislators before the meeting on the 23rd.

I will be in touch


Sent: Wednesday, July 02, 2008 9:25 PM

Subject: Kankakee Legislative Field Day

> Sent: Friday, June 27, 2008 8:50 PM

> Subject: Kankakee Legislative Field Day


> Farmers for a Flood Free Kankakee

> When and Where:

> Legislative Field Day:


> Wednesday July 23, 2008 10:00 am CDT approx. 2 hrs


> Pavilion west of SR 39 and SR 8

> Kankakee Fish and Wildlife Area

> Near the intersection of Hwy 8 and 39


> From the intersection of State Road 8 and State Road 39 go mile west and

> turn north into the Park area.


> Reason:


> A group of farmers from LaPorte and Starke Counties have come together with the

> purpose of getting the Kankakee River regularly maintained for an unobstructed

> water flow. All legislators with districts that are within the Kankakee Watershed

> are going to be invited for a 2 hour tour and briefing.


> The Spokesmen for the group is:


> Dick Welsh

> 3011 W 900 S

> Union Mills, IN 46382

> 219-716-6300 cell

> 219-767-2900 home


> Farm Bureau County Presidents, Natural Resources Committees, engaged

> leadership and local farmers are encouraged to contact their legislators

> and invite them to attend. Concerned persons are encouraged to attend also.

> A postcard inviting the legislators to attend will be sent out around July 8.

> Your are encouraged and are being counted on to follow up with a call and

> a personal invitation to your local legislators.

> The reason we are focusing on this now is because the destruction from flooding

> and poor drainage is on peoples minds. If you believe the Kankakee needs cleaned

> out and maintained now is the time to take action.


> Let’s work together to prevent a tragedy in the future.


> Sincerely,


> John Newsom


> John Newsom

> Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc.

> Regional Manager


> (574) 274-6144