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``Borrowed hooks and other looks:'' Channelizing the mighty Kankakee

We’re on schedule to run “Borrowed hooks and other looks” as planned on Fridays. (The first one–Bill Fuhry’s memories of “The Amazon”–posted Tuesday.)

This is a report from Norm Minas on Wednesday’s farmers’ meeting in Indiana on more dredging. Here’s a sample.

“From statements made some of the delays were due in part in bats nesting, fish spawning and deer season, all of which they thought were totally without reason. They couldn’t understand why wildlife was important despite comments from their spokesman on the tour bus they are working in conjunction with nature and didn’t want to harm any fish or wildlife.”

Norm is one of the most dedicated fishermen of the Kankakee, and one of its great protectors. Four years ago, I happened to catch him on one of my prowls along my favorite river and thought I should take a picture of him talking to Mike Clifford, another Kankakee protector.

“Borrowed hooks” should be sent to outdoordb@sbcglobal.net.

Here’s Minas’.

Here’s the setup from Minas: “I attended the meeting the farmers in Indiana had [on Wednesday] about K3 flooding. They had pictures of logjams, a handout, a speech by their spokesman and a bus tour.

I have included a report and my impressions and thoughts.”

Citizens for a flood free Kankakee meeting July 23, 2008

On Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at the Indiana Kankakee River Fish and Wildlife Area at the intersection of Indiana State Routes 8 and 39 a group of local farmers through the Indiana Farm Bureau held a meeting concerning the recent flooding on the Kankakee River. Their basic premise as far as I could tell was that the recent flooding in that area and the subsequent levee breaches was due entirely to logjams in the river.

I have a list of media, elected officials and other groups in attendance that is as complete as I was able to get. I apologize in advance if names are misspelled.

Media- Northwest Indiana Times, Star County News and Indiana Agri News. Elected officials – Representative from the Ind Governors office, in-person or reps present- Congressman Donnelly, Indiana State reps Dermody, Charbonneau and Debroski, Ind State Senator Blaine and officials from Lake and LaPorte counties. The Indiana Farm Bureau was there and most folks in attendance were farmers. The Indiana Dept of Natural Resources and the Indiana Dept of Environmental Management were represented. The Indiana Kankakee River Basin Commission, the Bremen Conservation Club [Indiana], The Kankakee River Conservancy District [Illinois] and the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance.

The stated goals which are taken from the handout they prepared are as follows:

1-We request that you provide sufficient funding to the Kankakee River Basin Commission or counties directly for important river maintenance work.

2- We request that you support all efforts to help us regain local control over our streams and ditches so that important work can be done immediately without lengthy bureaucratic delay.

Their spokesman said that the maintenance funding they wanted was for logjam removal and levee maintenance. On the local control of local issues he stated and I quote “They want to remove interference of state and federal agencies.” As he spoke it became clear the agencies that they objected to were the Army Corps of Engineers, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

The following is from their handout:

Timeline: Logjam Removal Project on the Kankakee River

Motion made from 3 county drainage board approving project 12-15-04 {with no interference from state or federal agencies this project could have been bid out and completed in 3 months] This was their note not anything I added.

Request for Sea review made 06-08-2005. First step required to begin negotiations with DNR for permit.

Sea Meeting Date 06-26-05 First meeting

Sea Meeting Date 09-02-05 Second meeting about permit restrictions

2nd letter from DNR concerning SEA review. 2nd letter from DNR placing restrictions on project received.

Date of meeting with Army Corps of Engineers 08-17-06 As result of SEA review comments meeting with

COE was required.

Date of letter from COE approving project 09-12-06

Section 401 WQC Regional General Permit Notification{IDEM} 10-06-06 required by IDEM regulations

Application DNR/Division of Water construction in floodway permit 01-26-07 requests for additional info to complete review 03-15 and 04-17, 2007

Date of permit from DNR?DOW – mailed 05-22-07

Project completion date -7-2008

From statements made some of the delays were due in part in bats nesting, fish spawning and deer season, all of which they thought were totally without reason. They couldn’t understand why wildlife was important despite comments from their spokesman on the tour bus they are working in conjunction with nature and didn’t want to harm any fish or wildlife.

Some of the farmers proposed that the state fund and build roadways on private property to facilitate logjam removal. They also proposed clearcutting all trees of the stream side of levees on both state and private property and then dumping the trees removed on state property all of which would be paid for mostly with public funding.

It was proposed by one of the farmers I talked to that they bring back a fee of a couple cents per acre the drainage districts used to charge to help to his credit. Once the trees were removed it was proposed that the levees be sodded over and mowed and woody growth be eliminated by the state forever. They couldn’t see how removing the trees could hurt, after all the birds could just fly a few feet further to find nesting spots.

They didn’t seem to understand issues such as how the tree roots stabilized the banks, how the trees shaded the river and helped keep ambient temperatures down or the role of trees in removing CO2 and adding oxygen. They also didn’t seem to understand the length of time it would take for plants to become rooted and stabilize the banks, the type of plants needed[loner roots] or how labor intensive that would be.

One guy actually said they could just shoot the seeds into the bank with a shotgun while floating down the river. I told them how when the park district on the Fox River cut the trees several years ago they ended up with losing a couple feet of riverbank in a year and asked what would happen to levees if the same happened.

I explained to them that speeding up the flow of the river which is what they want causes more sediment to be carried. I told them that in the channelized river they have in Indiana the increased speed means more sediment load carried which means more sediment dumped in Illinois, where the flow slows due to natural meanders. They said they had some sand traps which needed to be cleaned out. I told them that helped as long as they were maintained but wetlands and natural meanders to slow the flow and absorb excess water was what was needed to reduce flooding on both sides of the border. I tried to explain to some of them that the flooding was caused more by excess water in a channelized river without wetlands to absorb them than by logjams.

They were not interested in discussing creating wetlands, bringing back natural meanders and taking some of the levees down to benefit everyone and wildlife. They were upset that the IDNR had obtained an additional 420 acres for conservation purposes and to take excess water. The most common statement was that wetlands and wildlife didn’t pay property taxes. They couldn’t see that reducing flooding and sediment deposits all the way to the dead zones in the Gulf Of Mexico saved everyone additional taxes to pay for the damages. They also couldn’t see the point of areas set aside for wildlife or for everyone to use and enjoy.

They asked why their lifestyle should suffer and someone should lose their land for wetlands. I asked them if anyone ever asked the people who made their living from and in the Grand Kankakee Marsh how they felt before it was drained, dredged and channelized. About all I got was well it was mostly just Indians and they only lived on the high ground. When I asked about the folks that made their living hunting, trapping and fishing there was no reply.

One guy even had the nerve to say that the draining, dredging and channelization was just evolution in action. It was pointed out to him that those were man made events that actually harmed the natural system that evolution had come up with. I never thought I would here the rape of natural resources described as evolution.

In my opinion it seems that what the local farmers want to do is to remove logjams and cut down trees as they desire without being subject to the laws and rules that society has decided are necessary to protect the land and waters. They are unwilling to discuss what really causes the flooding – channelization and what needs to be done to alleviate it – wetlands and natural meanders. It was often stated that I should support what they wanted as it would cut down on the sand coming into Illinois. It was never explained how removing the logjams and increasing the current speed and thus the sediment load carried would accomplish that.

Norm Minas