It’s All Interconnected

In the end, it’s all interconnected.

To demonstrate, this column is really going places. We’re headed to the horse latitudes of the North Pacific, to Stafford England, to Starved Rock State Park, and to the ‘hydrofracturing’ natural gas extraction wells of Pennsylvania and beyond.

It all starts on Illinois Highway 47, just north of Mahomet.  Some of you may have noticed that the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy has “adopted” (we prefer “has assumed stewardship of” but that doesn’t make for as nifty of a slogan) the two mile stretch of Illinois 47 from Interstate 74 north to near County Road 2425.

This may leave you pondering, why would a river group be stewarding a highway?

In the end, it’s all interconnected.  Remember when you sucked out that last drop of Dew from that 32 ounce Super Pantry Mega Chill and pitched the empty out of the window of your Hummer while driving along HIghway 47 (without getting even one discount refill)? Did you know that this plastic Mega Chill cup reportedly has a known life expectancy, before degrading, of (approximately) 7,000 years?

In that amount of time, rain may wash that Mega Chill down into Buffalo Trace creek near the I-74 interchange,  into the Sangamon River, on past Decatur and Springfield, into the Illinois River, then the Mississippi, then south to the Gulf of Mexico, then it might float out into the Atlantic, around the tip of South America and into the horse latitudes of the North Pacific, ultimately to end up where much of our plastics are winding up these days: stuck forever in the North Pacific Gyre, aka “The Great Garbage Patch”. This Great Garbage Patch of discarded plastics is currently estimated to be approximately twice the size of the continental United States. And that Mega Chill will likely stay there for the next several thousand years.

So what about Stafford, England? In the end, it’s all interconnected.

The USRC is honored to be assuming highway stewardship duties from the Champaign County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League. The Izaak Walton League, founded in Chicago in 1922, is one of the oldest and most respected conservation associations in North America.

The League has its roots in promoting fishing and was named for (but notably, not founded by) Izaak Walton (1593-1683), whose chief claim to fame is publishing “The Compleat Angler” in 1653, one of the first books ever written about the sport of fly fishing, both from the ‘how to’ perspective, but also, in the form of a dialog between friends, on the joys of the sport itself.  Izaak Walton lived and wrote on a small farm in Stafford, England, and to this day, a quaint little cottage at the site has been preserved there as a museum to Izaak Walton and to sport fishing.

And we have our own quaint little Izaak Walton cabin right here at Lake of the Woods. The local Izaak Walton chapter was formed in 1924 and worked on several issues, including the creation of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District in 1948. And in 1964, the local chapter also constructed the quaint little Izaak Walton cabin in Lake of the Woods Park. The cabin overlooks the Sangamon River and is where the local League still holds its monthly meetings to this day.

And what about Starved Rock and the natural gas wells in Pennsylvania? You guessed it, it’s all interconnected.

This past Tuesday at its monthly meeting at the Izaak Walton cabin, the local chapter hosted Elliott Brinkman from Prairie Rivers Network. Elliot talked about an environmentally sensitive project supported by the Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers that is proceeding without proper public hearing and which has the potential to damage one of our treasured area parks along a Central Illinois river.

No, it’s not about Oakley Dam. Elliott was talking about Starved Rock Sand Mine near the entrance to Starved Rock State Park. I asked Elliot the obvious question: we’re permitting an environmentally sensitive project for a SAND MINE? Heck, I remember having plenty of the stuff where I grew up in Florida.

But apparently this isn’t just any sand. This perfectly hard and round sand is almost pure silica and is perfect for ‘hydrofracturing’ injection natural gas extraction well operations in Pennsylvania. Our area river sand is actually in great demand for these rapidly expanding “fracking” operations in Pennsylvania and out west. According to Elliot, it has already begun something of a 21st century gold rush, and we can only expect more such mines along our rivers in the near future.

As I also continue the saga of Oakley Dam, something that occurred 50 years ago with no visible trace of that effort today, I am reminded that the lack of an Oakley dam is a credit to those watchful few who paid attention. And while sand mines along our river corridors may or may not be environmentally damaging, we all need to pay attention to what’s going on in our own backyard and along our rivers and to what we do along our highways.

Remember, in the end, it’s all interconnected.

Appeared as Notes from the River, Mahomet Citizen, April 4, 2012 by Scott P. Hays

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