Monday, November 5, 2007

Shake Your Spunky Bottoms For The WRDA!

It is easy to forget in the welter of highways and railroad tracks that water transportation was the key to the economic development of Illinois. William Cronon in the book Nature’s Metropolis and others have argued that Chicago’s rise was on account of its perch between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds that was ably exploited via the I & M Canal. Water transportation of bulk goods is still a significant part of the Illinois transportation network.

Congress recently passed the $23 billion Water Resources Development Act. (Summaries here and here.) The WRDA provides about $3.6 billion for navigational improvements and ecosystem restoration projects in the Upper Mississippi River region. Here’s a description from the Conference Report:

Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway System

The upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway system is an important waterway, used to ship grain, predominantly from the heartland, all across the country. The conference report will:

Authorize $256 million for near-term navigation improvements and ecosystem restoration along the system;
Authorize $1.95 billion for new locks;
Authorize the Army Corps to address the cumulative environmental impacts of operation of the system and improve the ecological integrity of the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois River through a $1.7 billion program; and
Create an advisory panel to provide independent guidance in the development of environmental and navigation improvements.

Illinois appears to be a big beneficiary of these dollars. According to a weekend story in the Peoria Journal Star $2 billion of this money will be used to rebuild locks on the Illinois River in Peoria and LaGrange. The bill also authorizes $16 million to build three islands from 1 1/2 million cubic yards of dredged sediment along East Peoria's banks of the Lower Peoria Lake, which is filling with silt. Beardstown’s marina, which has been silt-choked since the Sangamon River’s course was changed the last time such a bill was passed, will see another revamping of the river’s course, which may enhance the prospects for marine recreation in this city on Route 67.

The full list of authorized Illinois projects in the WRDA is as follows:

Sec. 3058. Beardstown Community Boat Harbor, Beardstown, Illinois.
Sec. 3059. Cache River Levee, Illinois.
Sec. 3060. Chicago River, Illinois.
Sec. 3061. Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal dispersal barriers project, Illinois.
Sec. 3062. Emiquon, Illinois.
Sec. 3063. Lasalle, Illinois.
Sec. 3064. Spunky Bottoms, Illinois.

The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal dispersal barriers are the barriers designed to prevent the Asian carp and other non-native species from traveling from the Mississippi River watershed to the Great Lakes.

The $7.5 million Spunky Bottoms project is for production of a series of aquatic exercise videos of the same name for the federal anti-obesity program using the generously proportioned men and women of that area. No, really, it is a very cool 2000 acre wetlands restoration project on the Illinois River.

President Bush barely had a chance to sheath his veto pen after vetoing a bill that would provide hundreds of thousands of uninsured kids health care before he used it to veto the WRDA on Friday. Bush may have been responding to criticisms that the WRDA is full of “pork.” Urged on by the National Corn Growers Association, the Illinois Farm Bureau and other supporters of the transport of goods by barge, Congress is expected to override the President’s veto soon, since the House voted 381-40 and the Senate voted 81-12 in favor of the WRDA.

The likelihood of a veto override has prompted some observers to suggest that the President used the veto as a publicity stunt to portray a sense of fiscal discipline without interfering with the transfer of such “pork” as we roll into an election year. Indeed, the President signaled that he was "fine" with the veto override.

While we wait for the veto override, shake those spunky bottoms!


Jennifer said...

I think you mean Asian carp, or is there another big ugly fish threatening to take over the Great Lakes?

Moderator said...

Jennifer-You are so right. I made the change. Thanks. I might also add knuckleheads on jet skis as an ugly species threatening to take over our lakes.

Anonymous said...

The Spunky Bottoms wetland site is just downstream from another wetland site, the IDOT La Grange wetland.

The Spunky Bottoms site looks like a prime candidate for wetland re-creation. Re-creation of wetland sites in large, manageable areas has several benefits. It provides the developer with a source of "wetland credits" that can be applied to impacts caused by smaller projects, or sold to other developers for the same purpose. It provides a concentrated, large area that can be more effectively rehabilitated and managed than smaller, scattered wetland mitigation sites. And as a large tract, it can provide additional recreational and/or wildlife habitat opportunities.

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to the LaGrange site, not cut off by the comment box

Davey said...

$2 billion could go a long way to buying a world-class public transportation system, but instead will be used to bail out the barge industry. How much is the sales and property tax being raised in Peoria and LaGrange to pay for the benefit to their properties?

The Mississippi and the Illinois were doing just fine before they were wrecked by commercial and development interests. How nice for those same interests that they're getting a free ride while the RTA starves to death.

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