What is the River Conservancy District Plan? It is a multi-state and multi-county plan to save the Kankakee River.
After the February 2018 flooding in Aroma Park, Momence, Watseka and Kankakee, State Rep. Thomas M. Bennett; Andrew Wheeler, Kankakee County Board chairman; Iroquois County Chairman John Shure; and I started working on a plan to help mitigate the flooding and save our river. During the past two years, our group worked with the Kankakee River Basin Commission in Indiana, Indiana state officials, seven Indiana counties, consultation and engineering companies, and officials in the state of Illinois. The result is a work plan that works across both states. This work plan overcomes the bad blood that developed between Indiana and Illinois during the years and recognizes the responsibility Indiana has pertaining to the sand and silt that flows from Indiana to Illinois and recognizes the responsibility Illinois has to the Kankakee River.
The work group explored various avenues to fix the river on both sides of the border. This included dredging, vegetation on the banks, among other potential solutions. It was determined none of these actions properly address our problems. The plan chosen is built on engineering expertise, long deliberations, and 30 studies of the river dating back to 1886 and extends for the next 40 years. The plan contains regionalized plans for Indiana, Kankakee County, and Iroquois County with specialized plans for each of the tributaries to the Kankakee River as well as the Kankakee River itself.
Part of the work plan includes reducing sediment in the Yellow River in Indiana, removing log jams and bridges in Kankakee County, and stabilizing the banks on the Iroquois River in Iroquois County. Estimates place the cost of this at nearly $5.8 million per year with $3 million addressing the Indiana side. While Indiana approved of a seven-county commission and received $2.3 million in state funding, Illinois isn’t so lucky. Rep Bennett and I sought funding for saving our river in Springfield. Unfortunately, Springfield was not willing to help.
Our Illinois work group decided the only way to begin financing our portion of the plan was to expand the Kankakee River Conservancy District and to reorganize the district to include representatives from the affected municipalities and the county. The proposed expansion would quadruple the available funds for the district and our river, about $450,000 annually. For those in the footprint, it would cost an additional $24 per year, just $2 per month. I believe in this plan and the work we did for over two years, which is why I co-sponsored HB2583. This is only the beginning. It is my hope Kankakee County takes action on the river just as Indiana and Iroquois County have.
The referendum will be on the ballot March 17 for those residents who live in the expanded River Conservancy District.
This question will appear on the ballot: “FOR joining the Kankakee River Conservancy District and assuming a proportionate share of bonded indebtedness, or AGAINST joining the Kankakee River Conservancy District and assuming a proportionate share of bonded indebtedness?”
As a resident of Aroma Township, I believe a “yes” vote to this question is a vote to begin saving our river.