ON THE BANKS OF THE CHICAGO RIVER-- Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn and Laurene von Klan (Friends of the Chicago River Executive Director) today observed Earth Week by touting the landmark “Illinois Clean Water Initiative” to clean-up and restore Illinois waterways with the goal of making all Illinois rivers “swimmable and fishable” by the year 2020.
“A Native American proverb proclaims ‘we do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children’,” Quinn said. “During Earth Week 2004, let us remember our duties as stewards of Illinois’ precious waterways.”
The 34th Annual Earth Day will be observed on Thursday, April 22. In recent years, the entire week of Earth Day has been devoted to celebrating natural resources and promoting ways to protect our environment. Last year, Quinn climbed to the rooftops of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and a Berwyn “solar laundry” to tout the potential of wind and solar energy.
“Let’s pay tribute to Illinois’ diverse natural resources during this Earth Week by clearly stating our goal to make all Illinois rivers ‘swimmable and fishable’ by 2020, and by approving the Illinois Clean Water Initiative,” Quinn said. “With passage of the landmark $35 million Clean Water Initiative, we’ll have an immediate and far-reaching impact on every single Illinois river.”
Clean Water Initiative funds may be used to help local governments upgrade wastewater treatment plants, manage wetlands habitat for endangered species and remove sediment which impede navigation. Flood control, land acquisition and farm conservation practices would all be enhanced.
Public support for improved water quality is strong. A recent study of Illinois homeowners conducted by the Illinois Natural History Survey showed concerns over drinking water to be as high a priority as crime and education. Seven of ten respondents expressed fears of contaminants in their local water supplies.
“No Illinois resident should live in fear that their drinking water or backyard soil could cause leukemia or cancer,” Quinn said. “People have a fundamental right to know if there are deadly contaminants in their community and that’s why we need the Toxic Chemical Disclosure Act, the top environmental reform bill facing the General Assembly this year.”
Sponsored by Rep. John Fritchey (D-Chicago), the Toxic Chemical Disclosure Act would better inform residents living near hazardous waste and toxic contaminants of their proximity to deadly substances via the internet, direct mail postcards and legal notices in local newspapers.
Von Klan and Quinn re-stated the goal of making the Chicago River “fishable and swimmable” by 2020, an objective first outlined at the “First Annual Chicago River Summit” organized in September, 2003 by the Lieutenant Governor’s office and Friends of the Chicago River.
Once notoriously polluted, the Chicago River’s water quality has been improving. Now, new condos dot the banks, kayakers and canoeists ply the waters, herons are commonplace and the diversity of fish species has blossomed.
Von Klan detailed plans for the “12th Annual Chicago River Day”, which will take place on Saturday, May 8, 9:00 a.m. Thousands of volunteers are expected to roll up their sleeves to help clean-up and restore dozens of riverbank sites across Cook County.
“We’re looking long-term at a fishable, swimmable Chicago River by 2020, and a cleaned-up Chicago River on May 8, 2004,” von Klan said. To volunteer for the 12th Annual Chicago River Day, call Friends of the Chicago River at 312-939-0490.
As Lieutenant Governor, Quinn is Chairman of the Illinois River Coordinating Council. He is also a member of the bi-national Great Lakes Commission.
The Illinois River Coordinating Council – of which von Klan is a member - is an inter-agency body responsible for protecting the sprawling Illinois River Watershed and its tributaries (the Calumet, Chicago, DesPlaines, DuPage, Fox, Kankakee, La Moine, Mackinaw, Sangamon, Spoon and Vermilion Rivers). Under Quinn, the IRCC has tackled the protection of wetlands and eagle habitats, riverbank restoration, invasive species, sediment removal and strengthening the voices of river advocates.
“We’re standing near the waters plied by Marquette and Jolliet, and have an obligation to future generations to leave these waters more pristine than we found them,” Quinn said. “Earth Week is a chance to dedicate ourselves to that goal.”