ROCKFORD – Lt. Governor Sheila Simon visited the Burpee Museum and Discovery Center in Rockford today to gather local expert and public testimony on the conservation challenges facing two local rivers that feed into the Mississippi River.
Simon said the input on pollution, flooding and habitat concerns at the Kishwaukee and Rock River Watersheds will help the newly formed Mississippi River Coordinating Council (MRCC) develop conservation goals for 2012 and beyond.
“The Mississippi River and its tributaries are of vital importance to the ecosystem and economy of Illinois,” said Simon, who chairs the MRCC. “I look forward to working with the Council to outline goals and initiatives to protect our rivers and waterways.”
Established in 2010, the Mississippi River Coordinating Council promotes the environmental and economic health of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. It is composed of a diverse group of citizens, not-for-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies, and holds quarterly meetings across the state to gather local input on conservation issues.
Jerry Paulson of the National Land Institute testified that the Rock River has gone from being “ruined to well on its way to recovery.” Future restoration efforts should focus on curbing agricultural and storm water runoff, as waste from livestock, pets and geese continue to pollute waters.
Nathan Hill of the Rockford Park District identified commercial and residential development as the major threat to the Kishwaukee River. He recommended the council support stronger local ordinances on storm water runoff and erosion control, and work to restore state funding for soil and water conservation districts.
The quarterly meeting in Rockford comes as Simon continues to work with local, state, and federal officials to help coordinate flood relief efforts in southern Illinois along the Mississippi River. Simon has toured flood damaged areas in the region, helped set up sandbags, and met with emergency management personnel and citizens.
The next MRCC meeting will be held on July 12, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. at Cache River State Park in Belknap.