Question: What are the environmental costs of the decoupling process? And is this being considered? Rich Fristik, Corps of Engineers: We haven’t taken a close look at the environmental costs. There is a potential for fish to be trapped in the locks.
Question: Looking at the effects of the 9ft channel. What types of "effects" are you looking for? What would be the "zero base" against which you would compare? What data would be used to establish that base? Rich Fristik, Corps of Engineers: We are considering such things as sedimentation, sediments moving towards back and side channels. Sedimentation would also decrease the amount of light available for plant growth. The “zero base” conditions are established according to the data used in the studies of what is out there today. The “zero base” conditions are all existing data compiled today, including the data from the turn of the century.
Question: Will you be doing an EIS for the navigation study? Will it include the impacts of the effects of the 150 years of dams, dredging, and dikes? Rich Fristik, Corps of Engineers: Yes, an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) will be included in the final Feasibility Report. The EIS will include direct, indirect and cumulative effects.
Question: How is the nation addressing the uncontrollable farmland runoff? i.e., unregulated tilling of fields. Mark Beorkrem, MRBA: There are conservation programs working with farmers to decrease soil erosion. Currently, there are no regulations that address this issue. The Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Department of Conservation are working to increase the participation of farmers in its voluntary programs. The Illinois Dept. of Ag is meeting quarterly to create programs and funds for farmers. They are trying to figure out how farmers can minimize the load effects on the watershed.
Question: Why would making locks 1200 ft. change the ecosystem of the river? Rich Fristik, Corps of Engineers: When we did the study, we looked at site-specific and systematic effects. The ecosystem will change due to systematic effects. Building a 1200 foot lock will increase traffic. This increase in traffic will result in changes to the ecosystem.
Question: Caterpillar is developing river dredging equipment. Will they be included in the study and work? Will dredging the Illinois River be part of the study? Brad Thompson, Corps of Engineers: Most likely the study will conclude that dredging of the back water will be necessary. The Corps of Engineers’ real charge is to figure out what needs to be done. We are interested in innovative technology such as the Caterpillar dredging equipment, but we are not funded to develop technology.
Question: Have we considered limiting the number of barges to today’s level? The rivers seem more than full right now. Rick Nelson, US Fish and Wildlife Service: There is no attempt to limit the number of barges on the system. We will use the current traffic levels to establish the environmental goals.
Question: Can the existing lock system be maintained in the long term? Denny Lundberg, Corps of Engineers: Yes, we can maintain the current system for another 50 years with proper maintenance and proper rehabilitation, but I would like to emphasize that it will require money.
Question: Is river infrastructure necessary for national defense? Denny Lundberg, Corps of Engineers: The river is certainly an important part of the nation’s inter-modal system, but we are not considering it as a vital part of the nation’s defense.