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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2003

HISTORIC 1st ANNUAL CHICAGO RIVER SUMMIT A BIG STEP TO MAKING RIVER ‘SWIMMABLE AND FISHABLE’ BY 2020

HISTORIC 1st ANNUAL CHICAGO RIVER SUMMIT A BIG STEP TO

MAKING RIVER ‘SWIMMABLE AND FISHABLE’ BY 2020

 

CHICAGO – Standing on the Orleans Street Bridge over the Chicago River as boats sped below, Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn and Laurene von Klan (Executive Director, Friends of the Chicago River) today declared the “1st Annual Chicago River Summit” a successful step towards improving water quality and forging an effective and vocal “river constituency”.

 

            More than 100 summit participants heard from a range of speakers on topics including recreational uses, economic development and housing on the river, ways to improve water quality and “reconnecting the river” where aging dams now exist.  Participants included Chicago’s growing rowing community, riverfront homeowners, students, environmentalists, business owners and others.

 

            The historic Chicago River Summit was convened by the Office of Lieutenant Governor Quinn and Friends of the Chicago River.

 

            In her keynote address, von Klan recalled seeing a magazine headline ten years ago about “Our Friendless River”.  Since then, a broad constituency for the Chicago River has developed.  “There are a lot of things the river could be, many different visions,” von Klan said.  “But more people are willing to stand up and say, ‘This is my river’.  We’re part of the river and the river is part of us.”

 

            Von Klan also outlined plans for the “Michigan Avenue Bridge River Museum & River Center” to be located in two renovated Beaux-Arts bridge towers.  Set to open in 2006, von Klan said the River Center would help “…insert the river into people’s imagination” and boost Chicago tourism, as well.

 

            Quinn recounted the legendary Chicago River Marathon swimming meets held annually from 1908 until 1926.  Thousands of Chicagoans would line the banks to watch such stars as Johnny Weismuller swim from the mouth of the Chicago River through Downtown to Madison Street.

 

            “Today, we declare the goal of improving the water quality to the point where we can once again hold swimming races in the Chicago River,” Quinn said.  “We made history a century ago when the river’s flow was reversed.  We can make history again with a vigorous and determined grassroots effort to make the Chicago River swimmable and fishable by 2020.”

 

            Quinn also described the new Clean Water Initiative approved by the Illinois General Assembly to make $35 million available for clean waterways.  “The Clean Water Initiative will provide significant funding for a range of projects, such as wetlands restoration, sewage treatment and sediment removal.”

 

            One participant said, “Fifty years ago, this river was an open sewer, a lifeless stream.  But now, it’s an amenity.”  Representatives from various state and local agencies detailed efforts to improve water quality and enhance the responsible use of the river.  A public comment session completed the summit.

 

            As Lieutenant Governor, Quinn is Chairman of the Illinois River Coordinating Council, which is responsible for coordinating public and private funding for restoration of Illinois waterways.  Friends of the Chicago River is a not-for-profit group founded in 1979 to protect and renew the Chicago River.


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