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Category: Stewardship

Organizing a cleanup

 

Organizing a cleanup is easy!  All you need to do is grab some garbage bags, perhaps some cleanup tools, and your paddling friends, and pick up trash.  That’s all there is to it, so go forth and clean up our waters…Until you get to the spot you were going to drop the trash, and ‘Officer Friendly’ informs you that you can’t leave the tires there! So maybe it isn’t quite so easy.  Let’s start a dialog, on either on the IPC Web Site or on the Water TrailKeepers Facebook Page to discuss the logistics around organizing cleanups.

 

  • Setting the Cleanup Objective:  What do you want to accomplish?  Eliminate an illegal trash dump?  Pull Trash from the River?  Connect the community to a forgotten waterway?  What the goal will determine a lot of what will come next
  • Choosing Where and When.  As the organizer this is really your preference.  When are you available to do it.  Where do you want to do it?  However, you may find that some flexibility is in order.  Avoiding highly publicized dates like ‘earth day’, ‘it’s our river day’, ‘National Trails Day’, etc. may mean you get more volunteers because you won’t be competing with lots of other events.  Weather and on-water conditions may also impact the choice of when and where.
  • Fund Raising:  It always helps to have funds to supply cleanup tools/supplies, trash pickup, food for volunteers, etc.  In recent years, Water TrailKeepers has been fortunate to receive funding from REI Stewardship Grants, The ACA Club Fostered Stewardship Program,  the Illinois EPA, and other individual donors.  Funding is available, but it takes time and effort to obtain it.
  • Involving Local Authorities: If you can get the local authorities such as Forest Preserves, Conservation districts, park districts, etc. onboard, things go much more smoothly.  They may be able to help with disposal of trash, and provide other services.  They may even have volunteer programs to help you with recruiting volunteers and reaching out to the public.  Their responsiveness, or lack thereof may influence the decision on where and when.

 

  • Arranging for Trash Pickup:  If the local authorities are unable or unwilling to dispose of your trash, you will need to find alternatives.

Sometimes the local trash hauler will donate services to a community service project.  Sometimes they will offer discount rates.

Bridgestone has a program ‘tires 4ward’ to help dispose of trash-pickup-tires.

 

  • Recruiting Volunteers

Sources of volunteers:   Paddling Clubs, the community, church groups, youth groups, scouting….etc.

Involving the general public on-land walking the shores

Involving the general public on-water in boats

Thank, Feed, and Recognize volunteers

  • Partners and Sponsors:  Involving multiple organizations in the planning and execution of a cleanup increases the complexity, but can greatly increase effectiveness.
  • The media:.  The media can be a great ally publicizing the event. Media Outreach takes a lot of time, effort, and patience.
  • Event day logistics
  • Post cleanup follow up:  Get ready to do it again next year?

Report Dumping

By now everyone has probably seen the big California Oil Spill on the news. How about the two Illinois Oil Spills, one in Galina and one near Sidney in the Salt Fork of the Vermillion River? Read about them here:

http://www3.illinois.gov/PressReleases/ShowPressRelease.cfm?SubjectID=29&RecNum=13072

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-05-05/rail-fuel-spill-stirs-concerns.html

http://www2.epa.gov/il/galena-train-derailment

http://www.wsj.com/articles/bnsf-train-carrying-crude-oil-derails-in-illinois-1425599575

http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20150306/news/303069996

While these are dramatic examples, it doesn’t take a train-wreck-sized spill to have an environmental impact. Even small events matter. So you are paddling your favorite body of water, and notice a chemical sheen. Besides being grossed out…what do you do? One paddler of the Fox River on Memorial Day weekend experienced just this. Jake, contacted the local authorities in Aurora who were extremely responsive. Eric, who has been involved with volunteer water quality monitoring projects, and also happens to be the City Engineer was able to trace the spill back to the source and clean it up!  The Illinois EPA was also notified to investigate the spill. Great Victory guys!

 

A few years back, also on the Fox, some paddlers discovered a fish-kill off. They contacted local authorities. Eventually the culprit was found, and justice served. Great Victory!

 

Last Month, Mike Taylor and Tom Eckels were paddling the Little Calumet River. We discovered a illegal disposal site of truck tires and automotive parts behind a trucking company, dumped in the river. A call was placed to the local authorities. It is yet to be seen as to what happens. Let’s hope for another great victory!

So you are paddling on your favorite waterway. You find a chemical spill or an illegal dump site. What do you do? First of all, do not come into direct contact with any potential contaminants. Let the professionals do their job. The safest thing to do is to report it. But to whom. A good place to start is your local village/town/city/county hall. The staff there could direct you to the local authorities who can take direct action. Additionally these types of incidents fall into the jurisdiction of the Illinois EPA. For a chemical spill or other emergency; For A non-emergency:

Another tool available is the Report a Water Trail Problem of the Water TrailKeepers. WTK volunteers are willing to assist as much as we can!

No responsiveness from the local government or Illinois EPA? Consider contacting your State and/or Federal Senator or Representative’s office. Putting a little political heat under the feet of those responsible is always an option.  Also find organizations such as the Illinois Water TrailKeepers, Prairie River Networks, American Rivers, River Alliance, Friends of groups, etc. etc. etc. to help address the issue. Many organizations have existing relationships with authorities, and can call on their relationships to help get things cleaned up!

 

A Call To Action

From the Presidents Desk

A Call to Action

It is an exciting time to be a paddler in Illinois–there are a lot of projects and programs working towards improving paddling in Illinois.  I would like to thank you in advance for taking some of your valuable time and supporting these activities, and others as they come up.  Please feel free to contact me and I will put you in contact with the appropriate people for these projects.

Several communities are looking to improve their waterfront presence, and we have the opportunity to provide input.  Notably there are active projects along the Fox River in St Charles, Carpentersville, and Algonquin.  There is another project on the KanKakee River in Wilmington, IL.

There are active projects for three Illinois Rivers to become recognized as National Water Trails.  There are committees working on the Sangamon River, Kankakee River, and Fox River for this designation.  Additionally there is a active signage project on Banner Marsh in Central IL establishing it as a locally recognized Water Trail

Proposed legislation passed the House and Senate and is awaiting the Signature of our Governor to help improve the Water Usage Stamp by exempting out-of-state paddlers from the Stamp when they participate in paddling events in IL. Our Water Usage Stamp task force will continue to work on promoting incremental improvements of the program.

IPC Programs Remain Active: The River Closure Task Force continues to work with the DNR to address arbitrary river closures based on ‘high water’.  Water TrailKeepers Continues to run cleanups;  Paddlers Patrol continues to provide safety at events. Our Newsletter Committee has been working hard to produce these newsletters, and our web committee has worked hard to update the IPC Website.

For those who have renewed or become new Members this year, Thank YOU! You directly support our continued involvement in these activities and more. If you have not yet become a member for 2015, it is not too late. Memberships now accepted on line:

Tom Eckels

President, Illinois Paddling Council

Program Manager, Illinois Water TrailKeepers

thomasreckels@gmail.com

847-863-7046

Dams By Don Mueggenborg

Every year many people die because of low head dams. Above the dam, boaters may get too close to the dam and go over. Below the dam, fishermen wander too close to the dam and are sucked into the hydraulic. Many of us have dam stories – and we have all damned the dams at one time or another.

The dams are coming out or possibly being converted to a whitewater chute. The reason for the dams no longer exists – they have become obsolete. Removing them is healthier for the river and removes a potential danger spot (in many cases, the dams are in need of extensive repair.)

Dams had their uses when they were built. They were used to form a pool for a Mill Race. They were used to provide a ford across the river (e.g., Dam # 1 and Dam # 2 on the Des Plaines). They were used for recreation (e.g., swimming, canoeing, boating); in fact, you can still see the bolts that anchored a diving board above Dam # 2 on the Des Plaines. Dams were used for flood control. They were used for sanitation – sewage went directly into the river, and in low water, it was exposed to the air and smelled; dams kept the water level up and the stench down. Ryerson Dam was built so Ryerson’s horses could cross the river below the dam.

 Dam Removal:   dam1 before removaldam 1 removal

A considerable amount of dam removal has already, or will be occurring, on the Des Plaines River. Work is under way to remove Hollister Dam and Half-Day Dam. If not already completed, the dam in Des Plaines and Dam #4 on the Des Plaines River are scheduled for removal. Already removed on the Des Plaines River are a small dam in Lockport, Riverside Dam, Ryerson Dam, Dam # 1, and Dam # 2. The Des Plaines River should be dam-free by the end of the summer of 2015.

Other dam removal projects include the Carpentersville Dam on the Fox River – this is the latest dam removal announcement. The dam at north Batavia will be removed by nature, if it is not removed by man first (i.e., the dam south of Batavia on the Fox River). In addition, the dam has been removed from the West Branch of the DuPage River in Warrenville.

Dam Conversion to Whitewater

The dam in Yorkville has become a whitewater play park with an annual slalom race, and plans are being considered to build whitewater courses for several other dams. St Charles is considering a grand plan with several grades of whitewater chutes. There has been talk of a whitewater chute in Aurora (there is an attempt in place that was built several years ago, but it never was really functional). Rockford is also considering a whitewater chute on the Rock River (at present, it would require a long portage to get around the dam). Finally, Algonquin is also considering a whitewater conversion on the Fox River.

Good news.   Removing dams is safer – cutting the possibility of drowning and eliminating portages.   It is better environmentally for fish and for the flow of the rivers. Although the water level above the dam will drop, the water level below the dam rises.

The Vic Hopp Race starts at Dam # 1 on the Des Plaines River – go upstream and return. This year with the dam removed and low water level, we had one of the most interesting starts to a race that I have ever encountered. We were hitting bottom with our paddles, but the waves from all the boats tossed us this way and that. We would get a wave and shoot out ahead of a nearby boat only to be stuck behind another wave and have them pass. This was for the first several minutes of the race. Wish I could have said it pushed us to the front of the pack, but alas, that did not happened.