CYPRESS – A champion for safe, clean and accessible rivers, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, issued a declaration today marking July 12 as Creal Springs School Day in recognition of the junior high school students whose project in the Cache River Basin won the Disney Planet Challenge.
Lt. Governor Simon, chair of the Mississippi River Coordinating Council, issued the declaration after students gave a presentation on their project at today’s meeting which was held at the Henry Barkhausen-Cache River Wetlands Center.
“I am honored to be able to issue this declaration recognizing the work of Creal Springs students in helping protect Illinois’ waterways,” Lt. Governor Simon said. “Illinois rivers are a vital state resource that can be cherished by Illinois citizens young and old.”
The Creal Springs students, known as the Wetland Warriors, were awarded $20,000 for winning the Disney Planet Challenge, a national science competition for 3rd-8th grade students. The students will use the money to construct a handicap accessible boardwalk in the wetlands, build a wildlife viewing blind, and purchase radio transmitters for species research.
Over the course of two years Fran Wachter’s seventh grade class completed projects in the river basin that included transplanting vegetation, performing trail maintenance, determining water quality through sample collection, assembling educational materials for teachers and creating a website about their research.
“My students worked very hard and defied the odds to win the Disney Planet Challenge,” Wachter said. “This declaration is another way in which we can celebrate and inform the public about the importance of wetlands. I thank the Lt. Governor for her recognition and giving our students the opportunity to present the project in front of the council.”
Additional presentations at the meeting included updates on the National Mississippi River Parkway Commission (MRPC), a 10-state organization that works to preserve, promote and enhance the scenic, historic and recreational resources of the Mississippi River. This included a briefing on Senate Bill 168, which would expand the MRCC from 13 to 16 members and give the council responsibility for appointing the Illinois representative on the MRPC. The bill is awaiting action by Governor Quinn.
Simon also received an overview of the Mississippi River Valley system and how it behaved during the flooding that hit southern Illinois earlier this year, as well as an update on how the flooding affected the region. A presentation was also given on the ongoing issues confronting the Cache River Watershed.
The MRCC was established in 2010 and 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.
The next MRCC meeting will be held on November 1, 2011 at 1:30 p.m. at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center Field Station in Alton.