SPRINGFIELD, Ill— As thousands of participants in the historic “Grand Excursion” recreation of a celebrated 1854 trip up the Mississippi River enjoyed events in the Illinois Quad-Cities area over the weekend of June 26, Governor Rod Blagojevich today pledged his administration will continue to take a leadership role in improving water quality in America’s greatest river.
Governor Blagojevich said he was disappointed that he was unable to accept an invitation from Governor Doyle of Wisconsin and Governor Pawlenty of Minnesota to join them at an event in LaCrosse, Wisconsin on Wednesday in conjunction with the stop there by the Grand Excursion.
“While I will not be able to be there in person, in spirit I join my fellow Upper Mississippi Valley Governors in our commitment to continuing to protect and improve the great river that first brought settlers and commerce to our region,” said Governor Blagojevich. “Recently, at my request, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency proposed new limits on phosphorus discharges for most new and expanding wastewater treatment plants and last fall I nominated the Mississippi River segment that borders Illinois and Missouri for the federal Watershed Initiative Program to help reduce farm chemical runoff into the Mississippi River.”
Governor Blagojevich said he has requested nearly $1.3 million in federal funding for innovative programs to help address ‘Gulf Hypoxia’ – a condition caused by farm nutrient [fertilizer] runoff that has been blamed for killing off aquatic life in a large and growing area in the Gulf of Mexico.
Governor Blagojevich also today announced a new targeted initiative, through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, to provide increased direct technical assistance and financial assistance, as available, to 12 communities along the Mississippi River that also depend on the river for their public water supply.
“I have asked IEPA to make sure these communities are aware of the variety of assistance available to help protect the river, not only as a recreational and economic asset, but as a source of water,” the Governor said.
“Illinois EPA will assemble teams of experts on our staff to be available to local governments and community groups,” said Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Renee Cipriano.
The communities eligible for assistance include East Moline, Moline, Rock Island, Nauvoo, Hamilton and Warsaw.
The 2004 Grand Excursion kicked off in Rock Island on June 25, with a flotilla of riverboats. It commemorates the 150th anniversary of the original trip from Rock Island to St. Paul, Minnesota composed of more than 600 prominent citizens from the East, including then former President Millard Fillmore. The guest list included more than 50 newspaper editors, who sent back daily dispatches and was credited with bringing increased investment and settlers to the Upper Mississippi River Valley.
Events this past weekend in the Quad-Cities in conjunction with the Grand Excursion included: Taste of the Quad Cities and Gardens at the Butterworth in Moline; “Fusion” party in The District; cemetery tour and garden walk in Rock Island and a breakfast and flag-raising ceremony in Cordova.