Fox Waterway Agency says it needs space to process dredged material
They may share similar missions, but the Lake County Forest Preserve District wants to tread carefully in any potential agreement with the Fox Waterway Agency involving dredged materials.
The agency, which includes restoring environmental quality among its goals, says it needs space to process sediment dredged from channels and lake bottoms on the Chain 'O Lakes and Fox River and it wants to partner with the forest district to use 40 to 60 acres.
"We're not trying to address the problem. We're trying to solve the problem," said Joseph Keller, who recently took over as the Fox Waterway executive director.
The agency has agreements with some private property owners but is running out of room and is interested in space at the Bluebird Meadow or Lake Marie preserves -- options forest district officials said weren't appropriate. Keller made his case Monday in a presentation to the forest board's land preservation and acquisition committee.
"Our mission is to remove this sediment, up to 100,000 cubic yards a year. We're not getting close," he said.
The process of removing, relocating and drying the sediment from main navigational channels and channel mouths is cost prohibitive, particularly for an agency funded mainly on boating user fees, he said. Fox Waterway has been removing about 40,000 cubic yards of sediment annually, but wants to increase that to 150,000 cubic yards.
Wayne Blake, chairman of the agency's board of directors, said there had been $5 million in state funds appropriated, but never provided and is no longer available.
"It put us in a really big bind. We have no place to put this stuff," Blake said.
Forest district staff recommended against either possible location because of truck traffic, noise, dust and visual impact. The district had presented an unnamed site with potential for processing the materials to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, but there was no interest from the state, according to Ty Kovach, the forest district's executive director.
"We feel we need to continue that dialogue (with Fox Waterway). We feel there is a diamond in the rough on this," Kovach said. Property contiguous to a given preserve the district wants restored but can't get to could be an example, he said.
"We see a lot of property. Right now, we might pass on something that could make sense to them," he said.
While rejecting this proposal, committee members agreed the Chain is a big resource and tourism draw. About 92,000 individuals use the Chain each weekend, said Bonnie Thomson Carter of Ingleside. The veteran commissioner and former board president said the agency has denied similar requests in the past and she did not support this one. But times have changed, she said, and the public expects governments to work together and share resources.
"I do think we should be open to helping them," she said.
Some commissioners said a policy was needed. Kovach said a policy for determining future land use acquisitions, restoration and improvements is in progress.