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Farmers for a flood free Kankakee meeting report


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I attended the meeting held in Indiana yesterday by the Farmers for a flood free Kankakee.

 

They had photos of logjams, a speech , a handout and a bus tour.

 

I gave a statement to the reporters from the Star County News and the Indiana Agri News. I described how the inflow of sand was affecting Illinois both in terms of flooding and damage to habitat in the river. I told them I was there to see what was proposed and that as far as I was concerned any solutions needed to be fair to both sides of the border.

 

I was wearing an ISA shirt and indentified myself as a member but not an officer of the ISA.

 

Here is the report with my impressions and thoughts as well.

 

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. Thier 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, inperson 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 represnted.

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 Comission 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 lenghty bureaucratic delay.

 

Thier 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 thier 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 thier note not anything I added.

Requst for Sea review made 06-08-2005 First step required to begin neogotions 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 recieved.

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 flodway 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 thier spokesman on the tour bus they they 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 faciltate 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 elimanated 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 tempertures 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 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 thier lifestyle should suffer and someone should lose thier land for wetlands. I asked them if

anyone ever asked the people who made thier 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 thier 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 descibed 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 deciced are necessary to protect the land

and waters. They are inwilling 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 the

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

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Norm,

 

Having been exposed to such practices to "make a living" down south, I feel that type of pain.

Ignorance sure can be bliss. Especially if we only get about 3-4000 more folks to follow suit on

their farms. It doesn't matter, its not on my property now.

Wow, and I thought burning garbage was bad the first time I saw it down there. It was one of those

"you're doing whatttt?" moments.

 

When will we start to call that evolution? When the clouds drop solid waste on us?

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Thanks, Norm! This is one of those subjects near, and dear, to my heart. I have seen the very same attitude around my area, in central Illinois. That type of mentality is VERY hard to correct. And, I have tried! It seems that they can't move beyond the attitude mentioned by Brian A. "It's not on my property now. It's not my problem."

 

You know, we try to educate sportsmen, but I think the farmers are the group that we need to educate the most. I think if the state bought up the areas that were formerly wetlands, and redeveloped them as wetlands, the farmers couldn't complain that they were paying taxes on "wasted" ground. AND, they just might have fewer problems with flooding.

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I would think I would have a really hard time keeping my composure around those guys.

 

Your information makes me think that those farmers must be some of the most ignorant people I've ever heard of. Even less educated people have heard of conservation and the many facets that includes.

 

A rhetorical question I have is why isn't a scientist, biologist or someone with the science and facts behind them available to show pictures, graphs, charts etc about the effects and damages this causes?

 

Wouldn't pictures get through at least some of their ignorance?

 

It's easy to argue semantics, basically you have two non science based groups arguing points about what is the right thing to do without someone giving facts.

 

Really, really great job on this Norm, thanks.

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First of all, I'd like to point out that we had a gentleman attending this on behalf of the ISA that represents the interests of this river better than anyone on the planet.

I am astonished that folks from the IL watershed group for this river were not in attendance, and I intend to ask them why they were not, in no uncertain terms.

Regardless of whether it was going to be all about IN terms is not the issue.

We have much at stake here, and if our voice is going to be Norm Minas, I can personally vouch for the fact he is the best man for the job, period. It matters not who else should have been at the meeting representing IL sportsmen, Norm has more knowledge and experience regarding the river than all the politicos combined.

Norm spent the time and gas money to go out there and meet with these people in a hostile environment and held his ground throughout.

 

Watershed meetings scheduled for common folk like you and me that work for a living are few and far between.

That's why our voices are rarely heard.

Norm is usually that voice where the Kankakee River is concerned.

Listen closely, and you might learn something that could fire you up to join him..

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I agree, Norm is and will do great and it would be nice to have some other guns along with him to add to the discussion.

 

You used to always think of farmers as stewards of the land etc and that they would would want to protect etc.. but it seems like they are as "corporate" and I use that in the worst sense as any corporation that would abuse land and water.

 

If this were BP and thy wanted to tear down a bunch of trees, and screw up a watershed, you'd have everybody and their brother screaming and forcing the big bad corporation to stop. Since these are farmers, there is no big outcry.

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I would think I would have a really hard time keeping my composure around those guys.

 

Your information makes me think that farmers must be some of the most ignorant people I've ever heard of. Even less educated people have heard of conservation and the many facets that includes.

 

A rhetorical question I have is why isn't a scientist, biologist or someone with the science and facts behind them available to show pictures, graphs, charts etc about the effects and damages this causes?

 

Wouldn't pictures get through at least some of their ignorance?

 

It's easy to argue semantics, basically you have two non science based groups arguing points about what is the right thing to do without someone giving facts.

 

Really, really great job on this Norm, thanks.

 

In a word, NO.

I wish I had the answer, Jim.

They need to farm, period.

Nothing else matters.

In an economy as fragile as we are facing today, it get's worse for every "businessman" you can think of. The small farmer all the way up to the corporate type is feeling the pinch.

 

In the end, we need to educate and legislate.

Educating appeals to the human heart...... legislating appeals to the pocketbook and that can possibly lead to concerns for the "natural" function of the resource, though it is a tough row to hoe.

 

As for a "big outcry", there is actually.

The problem lies in the Dept. of Ag and their cronies approving everything that comes down the pike.

 

We lost on the Apple River CAFO (so far) because of this.

 

Legislate first, and we don't have to bust everybody's chops for a measly victory every decade or so.

 

Let me explain-

If the Jo Daviess County Board decision was legally binding, the CAFO would not have been built.

 

See where I'm going with this?

The same tactic applies to other issues, like sedimentation delivery.

We're working on it.

 

When it comes down to it, though...this is a drainage board issue that isn't going to be resolved anytime soon.

Pay close attention to what is happening in the Central region.

They are having fits with this all the time.

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Guest Don R

I very much appreciate your efforts Norm! Conservation education coming from a man that is highly passionate about the Kankakee River and its inhabitants.

 

Thanks and please keep us posted on any follow-up with press and future meetings.

 

Don

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Jim,

 

The rep from the IDNR tried but failed to make his point. He got out a report published about the river in Indiana and tried to show them what the drainage area looked like before it was destroyed. He was told that it was just a historical photo graph and that stuff had nothing to do with what goes on now. The farmers had a picture of a dredge destroying the river back in 1903. It is also on the cover of the handout and is titled "Foresight of our forefathers honoring the legacy that built a farm community to help feed a nation."

 

He told them the DNR would work closer with them on removing logjams. He also told them that part of the solution may involve converting more land into wetlands. That this message was not well recieved would be a massive understatement.

 

It was frustrating to hear the onesidedness of how the farmers percieve the problem and thier solutions to it. If farmland had to be used for wetlands most certainly the land owner would be compensated. Yes it would no longer be on the taxroll but if it reduced flooding it could save the taxpayers money in the long run.

 

I sat beside the rep from the Indiana Governor's office on the bus tour and you can be sure that my points were made to that individual. We discussed the impact on the State of Illinois and how the problem ultimately ended up in the Gulf of Mexico. We also discussed how much what the farmers proposed could cost. I don't believe the state of Indiana can afford that on it's own, federal dollars would be necessary. If that group thinks that public funds aren't going to have oversight and conditions attached then they are politically niave.

 

I sent a copy of this report to Dale Bowman of the Chicago Sun Times and Bill Byrns of the Kankakee Daily Journal. I gave Dale permission to put it on the blog on the Times webpage and Bill may use part of it for an article. The Northwest Indiana Times ran an article on it. The link is on the Indiana Smallmouth Alliance board. I posted a reply on the NWI Times site to the article, that is pending approval to be published.

 

I do have some extra copies of the handout from the event.

 

I don't think that I am going to win the Mr Popular vote, at least with the Indiana Farm Bureau folks any time soon.

 

Thanks to all for the kind words. I really do kinda consider it my duty to do what I can to try to be a steward of the river.

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From Dale Bowman's Blog:

 

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.''

 

2700470845_724b99c7fc.jpg

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.

 

Read On!

 

Lots more to digest in the article.

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Mike,

 

We could pick up a few bucks come Halloween selling copies of that picture to haunt houses. :lol:

 

It's great having a guy like Dale Bowman helping the cause and providing space for stuff like that.

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