SPRINGFIELD --Illinois has nominated five watersheds for consideration in a federal initiative that could provide grants of up to $1.3 million each to 20 watersheds around the nation for water quality restoration and protection.
Governor George H. Ryan has submitted as Illinois’ nominees the Fox River Watershed Investigation Project, the Kankakee River Basin Watershed Project, the Upper Des Plaines River Watershed, the Kaskaskia River and the Piasa Creek watersheds.
In his 2003 budget, President George W. Bush proposed $21 million for a new federal watershed initiative for promising watershed projects where assessments have been completed and local coalitions are ready to move forward with clean ups and restoration of their watersheds.
"Efforts to protect and enhance Illinois' water resources have had a high priority for my administration. Broad national efforts like President Bush’s Watershed Initiative can provide states with additional resources to continue that effort," Gov. Ryan said.
" Illinois EPA has a well-established extensive watershed monitoring and protection effort in place. This new federal program will give us a welcome additional tool to maintain our momentum on these important efforts," said Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Renee Cipriano.
Typical awards are expected to range from $300,000 to $1,300,000. Nominated projects will be evaluated by the U.S. EPA on their potential to achieve measurable environmental results in a relatively short time frame, demonstrate broad support among diverse segments of the population involved, their innovation and adaptability as models, and compatibility with other federal or state programs. Multi-state projects will be given extra points in judging, as will projects where the nominating entity offers a funding match of more than the required 25 percent.
States were limited to two nominations each for intrastate projects. There was no limit placed on interstate projects. The deadline for submitting nominations to the U.S. EPA was Thursday, Nov. 21. Further information on each nomination follows:
The Upper DesPlaines Watershed Restoration Action Strategy’s total cost is estimated at $1,360,671, with the local municipalities providing a 46 percent match to a requested $735,916 federal grant. The watershed encompasses 480 square miles, of which 346 are in Illinois and include land uses ranging from rural and agricultural to densely populated areas. Eight subgrantees would implement projects including shoreline erosion control, creation of buffer areas, detention basin retrofits, streambank stabilization and education and outreach efforts.
A $394,500 federal grant is being requested for the Fox River Watershed Project, with local partners providing a 25 percent match to provide the estimated total cost of $526,000. The 2,658 square mile Fox River watershed includes 1,720 square miles in Illinois, an area that accounts for only 3 percent of the state’s total area but supports 11 percent of the Illinois population. That number is expected to grow to more than 30 percent in the next 20 years, posing unique challenges to balance growth with environmental protection.
- The third interstate project is the Kankakee River Watershed, which seeks $581,250 toward a $775,000 project. Identified problems include unusual extremes of both high and low flow water levels, sand and silt deposition, and nutrients. The Kankakee River Basin Partnership is proposing removal of critical flow obstructions, wetlands restoration and creation, a water levels survey, identification of critical areas and development of best management practices to protect them, development of cost share programs for producers, and education and outreach efforts.
- Local partners are proposing a 25 percent match for a federal grant of $975,000 for the $1,300,000 Kaskaskia River watershed project, encompassing the largest river lying entirely within the state boundaries. The Kaskaskia watershed covers 5,840 acres, and with its nine tributaries flows through 22 counties. Currently, 87 of its stream segments or lakes are listed as “impaired,” meaning they cannot meet all designated uses. The Kaskaskia Watershed Association recently adopted a comprehensive watershed plan to reduce nonpoint source pollution and improve water quality.
- The Piasa Creek watershed located north of Alton includes 77,000 acres and drains parts of Madison, Jersey and Macoupin counties. The creek discharges directly to the Mississippi River. The Piasa Creek Watershed Project, working with the Great Rivers Land Trust, hopes to reduce sedimentation by 6,600 tons yearly. Overall project cost is estimated at $2 million. The local partners are offering to provide a 40 percent match to a $1.2 million grant.
All funding for the Watershed Initiative program hinges on the availability of federal appropriations that have not yet been made.