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posted: 9/27/2013 4:34 PM

Despite reservoir plan, Army Corps won't seize Didier farmland

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  • Didier Farms' vegetable crops are on the north end of the property along Aptakisic Road in Lincolnshire.

       Didier Farms' vegetable crops are on the north end of the property along Aptakisic Road in Lincolnshire.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • The Army Corps of Engineers has a proposal to turn much of the Didier Farms property into a stormwater retention pond. However, the Corps has no desire to seize the family's property or force them to sell.

       The Army Corps of Engineers has a proposal to turn much of the Didier Farms property into a stormwater retention pond. However, the Corps has no desire to seize the family's property or force them to sell.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 

John Didier was surprised to learn of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to turn much of his family's Lincolnshire-area farm into a reservoir.

Didier said a friend emailed him a link to a TV news report regarding the plan about a week ago.

No one from the federal agency had previously told Didier or his brothers about the plan -- part of a much larger effort designed to ease flooding in the region.

"It's a little disconcerting to be watching the TV and see what other people have planned for your property," said Didier, 64.

Fortunately for the Didiers, the Army Corps has no desire to seize their property or force them to sell, said Jeff Zuercher, a project manager with the agency.

"This is very preliminary and all voluntary," said Zuercher, who enjoys taking his own family to the agricultural tourist attraction. "It was never the Corps' intention to try to destroy Didier Farms."

John Didier's family has owned and operated the 80-acre farm at the northeast corner of Buffalo Grove and Aptakisic roads for 101 years. It took the name Didier Farms in 1948 after John Didier's mother, Mary Sue, married Herb Didier.

The Army Corps' proposal for the farm was among 27 projects recommended by the agency to limit flood damage and restore ecosystems along the Des Plaines River in Cook and Lake counties and in southeastern Wisconsin.

The plans were made public and disseminated within the last week, through media reports and open houses in Mount Prospect, Libertyville and Bristol, Wis.

The agency has been working on the study since 2002 and now is seeking feedback from the public.

Other proposals include: the construction of an 11,100-foot levee and flood wall in Des Plaines; construction of a pumping station in Maine Township; and the removal of five suburban dams on the river.

Completing all the projects could take up to 20 years and cost up to $450 million. Each would require congressional approval, officials have said.

The Army Corps of Engineers doesn't have the legal ability to seize the Didiers' farm without their consent. The agency would have to work with a government that has eminent domain power to push the project forward.

Fans of the farm have turned to social media to voice their support for the family.

"Let's hope the government will let you keep your land for generations to come," one person wrote on the farm's Facebook page.

"This can't happen," someone else wrote.

The Army Corps' Zuercher is aware of the public opposition to the plan. The site was chosen because it's a sizable piece of open land, he said, and that's hard to come by in this area.

"One of the things that is hard about this (study) is that there is not a lot of open land left," Zuercher said.

Without cooperation from the Didiers, the proposal essentially is moot, he said.

Didier called the farm an asset to the community. He and his brothers have no plans to sell the land or close the farm.

"We're trying to be a good neighbor and we're trying to make a living in peace," he said. "I know there is a drainage problem, but we didn't cause it."

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