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KRLog Notes Archive

Kankakee River Log notes, letters and opinions more than thirty days old are posted below. For more to original KRLog content please visit our Op-Ed Archive.

KRLog notes - posted 10.29.2003

Taking back the Lake Michigan shore

Today, we look just beyond the Kankakee watershed to the big lake to the north and Congressman Viscloskey's ambitious 'Marquette Plan' for the redevelopment of the shoreline from the Illinois State Line to Portage. Like Lake Michigan, the Kankakee is largely under the spell of decisions made in the 19th century. But it's not the 19th century anymore. Throughout our region -- a region that's been subject to a long term economic decline -- we need to reexamine the land-use and economic development decisions made in the late 19th century.

Opening up the lakeshore - "the Marquette Greenway Plan, involves a transformation of Northwest Indiana's lakeshore, covering about 45 miles from the state line at Hammond to the eastern edge of Portage. Visclosky, D-Ind., envisions a gradual transition from a shoreline reminiscent of the Industrial Revolution into a picturesque swath of public space more in keeping with the 21st century." [10.29.03 - Eaken - nwiTimes]

Taking back the lakefront - "'Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood,' advised Daniel Burnham, who drafted Chicago's plan to reserve the Lake Michigan shoreline for public use. That is good advice today as Northwest Indiana contemplates how best to shape its shoreline's future." [10.29.03 - Editorial - nwiTimes]

Environmental groups laud steps taken in Marquette project - [10.29.03 - Russell - nwiTimes]

Recovering NWI lakefront is important, timely plan - Congressman says plan to recover public access to 75% of Lake Michigan shoreline from Illinois State Line to Portage would 'profoundly change' the future of NWI. [10.29.03 - Editorial - Gary P-T]


KRLog notes - posted 10.23.2003

Starke BZA to revote on prop'd CAFO

not online: In a copyrighted article by John Reed published in the Oct. 23 edition of the Starke Co. Leader, Reed reports that the B&L Pork application for approval to construct a 3k head hog confinement operation near Hamlet, Indiana will be revoted at the next mtg of the Starke Co. BZA at 1:30 p.m. 11.5.2003. According to the article, all of the attorneys in the matter agreed that the prior meeting's vote of 2-1 would not be a binding decision in the matter. The board has 5 members, two of whom were absent from hearing on 9.16.2003. Three concurring votes are required for a valid board action.

KRLog notes - posted 10.22.2003

Seein' Green (TV, that is)

[press release from the St. Joe Valley Greens]

Tune into GreenTV and watch local news! The first shows feature SJVGreen members speaking about the South Bend, IN chapter's history and our current focus on Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO's) and water quality for the St. Joe River. Marty Lucas, an Indiana lawyer whose practice focuses on environmental and property law, speaks about riparian rights, supporting local regulators and working to improve water quality in our region. Airtime for GreenTV will be 4PM EST Thursdays on Channel 03. (check your local cable access listings for schedule in your area) Future shows to be announced. Contact: Victoria Webb, GreenTV Producer. email: vic@furiousdreams.com, or tele: 574.315.0531

KRLog notes - posted 10.16.2003

BigDumbHoosier's Hen-of-the-Woods Soup

KRLog readers will be familiar with my love of wild woodland mushrooms; right now there's a bumper crop of these delicacies. Traditionally, folks sauté them in butter and pressed garlic. That's good, but I've been looking for some more sophisticated approaches. Here's a soup recipe I've developed that isn't too difficult and is a real gourmet treat, IMO. I'm a fairly intuitive cook, so consider the measurements rough approximations and vary to your personal taste. This recipe is a Hoosier style dish inspired by French country cooking.

Pick some fresh 'hen-of-the-woods' from the base of an old black oak. Soak in cold brine (about like sea water) in a cool place for about four to eight hours. Thoroughly clean and discard any portions with embedded sand. I also discard any portions with to much gillage - the heart is the best part. You'll need about three cups of sliced, cleaned mushroom for this recipe.

Warm a large saucepan for a few moments, while empty. I use a Pyrex® sauce pan for this recipe. Reduce heat and gently melt half a stick of butter in the sauce pan; don't scorch it! Select a couple of cloves of good garlic and put it through a press and into the melted butter. Then add one nice white onion, chopped. Saute gently until the onion begins to clarify. Then add a handful of chopped heart of celery, and a tablespoon or two of dried parsley. Now add the three cups of chopped mushrooms and sauté until they give off their moisture, but don't boil it off.

Once the mushrooms, etc. are finished giving off their moisture and are simmering in their own juice, add about three and a half cups of water, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a couple of dashes of Worchestshire sauce, a half teaspoon of rubbed sage, a half teaspon of crushed rosemary, and a little salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer with the lid on for about a half an hour. If it starts looking too crowded in the sauce pan, add water. If it's looking watery, open the lid and let some water vapor escape.

Remove from heat and allow to cool for about fifteen minutes. Pour the contents of the saucepan into a blender and puree. Careful...don't get scalded! When it's pretty smooth, but before it gets foamy, pour it back into the sauce pan. Add about a cup of milk (more if you like). You could use cream, I suppose. Remove about a quarter cup of the soup and mix in about a tablespoon of flour -- then add more soup to the paste and when you're sure you aren't going to make lumps, add it back to the soup. As the soup gets near boiling, mix in about a quarter cup of grated Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Whatever you do, don't scorch it! Once it gets just to boiling, let it cool a little and serve with crackers. For a festive touch, hollow out a loaf of sourdough bread, and fill with the mushroom soup.

[here's the permalink]

KRLog notes - posted 10.15.2003

The KRLog's logs

I just updated my logs for bigEastern.com - so far this year we've served up over 144,000 pages; that's over 500 pages a day; total server 'hits' have topped half a million. The Kankakee River Log homepage itself has been downloaded more than 13,000 times since January 1, 2003. September 2003 was one of our best months ever at bigEastern.com - we served up more than 20,000 pages. Thanks to everyone for visiting, you make my humble little project worthwhile.

KRLog notes - posted 10.10.2003

CAFO or No?

In his Starke County Leader editorial The ham factories will be back John Reed offers support for hog-confinement facility operators N&L Pork, Inc. (owned by Lee Nagai and Brad Lawrence the latter of whom will be familiar to KRLog readers in his role chairing the Kankakee River Basin Commission).

The editorial isn't available online. In substance Reed argues that confinement animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are the future of livestock production and that local zoning boards (in this case, the Starke Co. Zoning Bd.) should protect and foster agriculture. Reed correctly points out that the applicant wasn't proposing to build an outside 'lagoon', and that the N&L Pork operation is of a moderate size. Reed also criticized the CAFO opponents' attorney E. Scott Treadway for inundating the board with more material in opposition to the proposed CAFO than the board could absorb.

The argument that Atty. Treadway worked too hard on behalf of his clients is mystifying, but Reed's argument that CAFOs are an inevitable part of a trend toward larger farming operations is more on point. [background link: Down on the farm no more - Paulson, Christian Science Monitor]

Leaving aside arguments about the ethics of confining animals, there's no doubt that consumers are price conscious and therefore livestock production is highly competitive. The real question is whether the fact that pork producers are in a competitive marketplace gives them the right to damage or cause a nuisance on their neighbors property.

Reed seems to say that the smell of a hog farm is just part of life in the country. I understand his point: few of us have a lot of sympathy for people who move from the city next to a corn field and then complain about the dust. However, a newly constructed CAFO with thousands of animals is not at all analogous. It's a new phenomenon and it's significantly more burdensome on the neighbors. Would you buy a house next to a hog CAFO? Would you pay as much for a house next to a CAFO as you would to one next to, say, a lake? 'Location, location, location' is a well worn cliche of the real estate world -- within smelling distance of a hog CAFO is not a desirable location.

No doubt some CAFOs are run better than others, and no doubt it's possible to run one without causing a great deal of environmental harm. There's also no doubt that folks who've made their dream homes out in the beautiful countryside of the Kankakee River region aren't going to be thrilled when somebody wants to stink up the neighborhood with a CAFO (or anything else that stinks, for that matter).

So ultimately the question is, do we have in place regulations and people to police them to ensure that CAFOs are operated in an environmentally responsible manner? If CAFOs really are the future of livestock production (and, like it or not, maybe they are) then we're going to need a set of rules that (a) ensure that neighbors aren't negatively impacted; and (b) that all environmental rules are policed and enforced. The right to farm is not the right to harm.

KRLog notes - posted 10.9.2003

What's 'TMDL'?

'TMDL' means 'total maximum daily load' and is part of the language of the Clean Water Act - here are some links about TMDL in Indiana:

E-Coli Monitoring Data - Kankakee River at Shelby - charts and compares observed flows in the river at Shelby with observed e-coli bacteria counts. [9.22.2003 - IDEM]

Report on the Collection of Water Quality Data for the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads for E coli bacteria in the Kankakee River, Lake and LaPorte Counties, Indiana - a 1999 study intended to 'identify areas of concern and quantify the degree of contamination' - data, but not much in the way of explanation. [7.10.2002 - Hirshinger - IDEM]

Total Maximum Daily Load Program - official documents (mostly in .pdf) about the TMDL program being implemented by IDEM to comply with Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act.

KRLog notes - posted 10.9.2003

It's autumn

Suddenly, fall foliage is happening in the Kankakee region, starting with the sassafras and nyssa sylvatica ('black gum' or tupelo). Migratory birds are showing up in numbers too, with about seven thousand cranes at JP. I also noticed a merlin on the roadside near JP yesterday.

Alas, the ladybugs and the black flies are pretty bad in places. They should calm down soon though.

KRLog notes - posted 10.6.2003

TNC's Tippecanoe River Project manager Chad Watts sees sediment as biggest issue in Monon Ditch project

Last week Terry Turner's Newshawk included two articles about the proposed Big Monon Ditch reconstruction. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has identified the Tippecanoe River as a key reservoir of biological diversity in Indiana, and has opened a Tippecanoe River Project field office in Winamac, near the Big Monon project. I asked their project manager, Chad A. Watts, to comment on the project, and how TNC thinks it might impact the Tippecanoe River Project.

Project manager Watts said "If the [Big Monon reconstruction] project gets going, we would like to see it done in a way that would contribute the least amount of sediment to the river and Lakes Shafer and Freeman. I also think that the reconstruction project would be a great opportunity to market conservation buffers to landowners that utilize the land along the Monon. Although conservation buffers will not do much to alleviate sediment that is stirred up during construction, they will help over the long term to reduce sediment and pollutant loads once the project is finished, and will help to prolong the gains that are made as a result of the project in terms of drainage and increased ditch capacity."

"Buffer practices are being marketed through the local Soil and Water Conservation Districts as a part of the conservation provisions of the USDA Farm Bill. There are significant financial incentives and cost sharing opportunities that can be gained by installing buffers as a part of the USDA buffering programs. Encouraging farmers to implement no-till, conservation tillage and other soil saving practices on their land can also be advantageous in terms of reducing sediment and pollutants that reach the ditch, and the Tippecanoe River as well." [background link: Buffer Strips: Common Sense Conservation - NRCS]

Watts added that TNC's Tippecanoe River field office is available to discuss ways to assist improvements in the Tippecanoe River watershed, "If anybody is interested in seeing what The Nature Conservancy can do to help, they can give us a call at our office at (574) 946-7491 and we can see what we can do for them."

KRLog notes - posted 10.3.2003

Monon ditching could be $10m project

State sues Porter County conservation district over trust fund - Indiana AG's office calls Porter Co. S&WCD to task for claiming improper expenditures from unauthorized trust fund. [10.3.03 - AP - IndyStar]

Not online: Terry Turner's Newshawk (October 1, 2003 edition - two articles by Jim Carr) includes extensive coverage of the Monon Ditch reconstruction project: Monon Ditch suit dismissed in Pulaski Superior Court and Monon board hears from NIPSCo, discusses litigation.

The Monon is a tributary of the Kankakee's sister, the Tippecanoe. According to the copyrighted articles, the Joint Monon Drainage Board (JMDB)has retained the engineering firm of Beam, Longest and Neff to oversee the project. An initial phase 'calls for removal of brush and trees along the banks of the ditch'.

The most recent dispute related to disclosure of documents regarding the project, which has an estimated cost of nearly $10,000,000.00. That's a pretty breathtaking sum for a ditch project -- in theory these projects pass a cost/benefit test. That means, in theory, this ditch project will generate more than $10,000,000.00 in benefits.

Previous reports indicated that the federally listed Indiana bat was found along the Monon, slowing the project. What amazes me is that I've found absolutely nothing about this big project online, especially considering that the Tippecanoe is considered one of the most important rivers in eastern North America, from a biodiversity standpoint, and the Big Monon is a significant tributary. [background link: TNC's Tippecanoe River Project].

According to the Newshawk article, no permits from the USF&WS, IN-DNR nor from ACOE have yet been recieved. Indianapolis attorney Lawrence A. Vanore of Sommer Barnard Ackerson PC is representing the JMDB in the permit application process.

There's a lot more in the articles in the Newshawk, which is distributed free, but isn't online yet. We hope it will be soon!

KRLog notes - posted 10.3.2003

Time for hen-of-the-woods

The weather certainly is miserable - cold, bleak, rain, gloom. Seems more like November. But there's a bright side -- that's just the kind of weather that brings on the best coliform mushrooms. The 'shrums have many names; maitake in Japan (which means dancing mushroom), 'hen-of-the-woods' in parts of the U.S. The traditional name I heard as a kid in Starke County was 'rooster comb'. Here are some links:

What is Maitake? - a bit of Japanese background.
Hen-of-the-Woods - a mushroom huntin' tale.
Cajun Hen - recipe; I'm trying this one tonight...

KRLog notes - posted 9.30.2003

A look at the St. Joseph

[based on Pollution sources to be discussed in Michigan and Indiana - 9.29.03 - Lowe - SoBndTrib]

The St. Joseph (of Lake Michigan) watershed is the Kankakee's neighbor to the north: the two watershed's are linked historically because the canoe portage at present day South Bend was an early route between the Great Lakes (and hence the St. Lawrence River and eastern Canada) and the Upper Illinois, which provided a waterway to the Mississippi and on to the Gulf of Mexico. Geologists tell us that the upper St. Joseph watershed was part of the Kankakee watershed until (perhaps) as recently as 2000 years ago, when some kind of erosion event allowed the St. Joseph to capture these waters and send them instead on the steaper trip to Lake Michigan. The Friends of the St. Joseph is an environmental organization dedicated to help preserve and improve the St. Joseph River, their web site includes an interesting page entitled A Brief History of the Native American and European Names of the Saint Joseph-River by Bob Owens & Scott Null

KRLog notes - posted 9.29.2003

KRBC and that River of Sand

Not online - KRBC and that River of Sand: The Kankakee River Basin Commission held its regular meeting on September 25, 2003 at the Kankakee Fish and Wildlife area near North Judson. The meeting included approval of the minutes from the March 27, 2003 meeting at Portage. The more interesting portions of the minutes were discussions about projects intended to stem the flow of sand from the Yellow River, which joins up with the Kankakee at English Lake.

According to the minutes Dick Hudson from IN-DNR submitted a proposal for a wetlands restoration in the Craigmile Ditch (nee Cedar Lake Creek) area of Starke County. The project would be 'west of Bass Lake along SR 10'. [Note that the Craigmile Ditch/Cedar Lake Creek is a tributary of the the Kankakee with headwaters at Bass Lake -- Bass Lake was formerly known as Cedar Lake, before that it was known as Lake Wichetonqua] The minutes say the project would be done in conjunction with the 'North American Wetlands Group'. Presumably that means the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, a product of a treaty between the US, Canada and Mexico intended to help preserve migratory waterfowl.

According to the KRBC's official minutes there was also discussion of a Section 206 project on the Yellow River, subject to a determination of jurisdiction over the Yellow River in Starke County. The Yellow River is believed to be the source of much of the sand in the Kankakee River. Hey folks, the native American name for the Yellow River was...well, Yellow River, in their language of course. There's a reason it's had that name since prehistory. It's yellow. Not the water, that's pretty clear or should be. The river bed is yellow -- yellow sand. So this is nothing new. Here's a link to find out more about the Aquatic System Restoration: Section 206 process.

Editor's comment: it's strange to me how little coverage this stuff gets in the regional newspapers.

KRLog notes - posted 9.25.2003

Starke Zoning Appeals Bd. won't approve CAFO

Both the Leader and the Newshawk are reporting that the Starke Co. Planning Commission voted 2-1 in favor of granting a permit for operating a 2k head hog facility (CAFO) in Davis Twp. near Hamlet. However, because two of the board members were absent, one 'nay' vote was sufficient to deny the application. According to the Leader story by John Reed, Clint Norem and Jack Powers voted in favor of the farm while Michael Reetz voted nay. The applicants, N&L Pork, have thirty days to appeal to Starke Circuit Court. The hearing was held September 18, 2003.

KRLog notes - posted 9.25.2003

brief review of Ind.Sup.Ct. decision in IDEM v. Twin-Eagle LLC.

IDEM v. Twin-Eagle LLC can be viewed as the Indiana state law reverberation of the US Supreme Court decision in Solid Waste Agency of N. Cook County v. United States Army Corps of Eng’rs, 531 U.S. 159 (2001) -- usually referred to simply as 'SWANCC'. In SWANCC the US Supreme Court held that federal regulatory authority under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act was limited to navigable waterways, their tributaries and wetlands adjacent to these waterways, all of which are collectively known as 'waters of the United States'.

The effect of the SWANCC decision was that wetlands and ponds not directly connected to navigable water systems became unregulated under the Clean Water Act -- these bodies of water are called 'isolated wetlands'. [I usually put the term in quotes because, while useful for legal discussions, there's really no such thing as an isolated wetland, at least in most of northern Indiana where all waters interact through subsurface hydrology.]

The Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management (IDEM) oversees enforcement of the Clean Water Act in Indiana. After the SWANCC decision, IDEM instituted an interim process to protect 'isolated wetlands.'

A real estate development corporation, Twin-Eagle LLC. owns some land in Ft. Wayne and, as part of their residential development plan, they wished to fill several acres of wetlands and ponds on the property. Based on the SWANCC decision, they argued that IDEM had no authority to require a permit for filling the wetlands, saying that IDEM's authority under the statutes was limited to 'waters of the United States' and that IDEM's interim procedure was not properly authorized or conducted.

Neglecting procedural arguments, the Indiana Supreme Court summarized the issues presented as: (1) whether IDEM has statutory authority to regulate waters that are not waters of the United States; (2) whether Indiana law gives IDEM regulatory powers over "private ponds" or "isolated wetlands" or both; and (3) if so, whether the NPDES permitting system is authorized to be employed.

The Court found that "waters of the state" can include waters that are not "waters of the United States", but that whether particular waters are 'waters of the state' requires an individual determination. It appears, for example, that a private pond might not be 'waters of the state' if it is not connected (including by discharge) to any waters of the state. However, if a private pond discharges materials into waters of the state, it would be subject to IDEM regulatory jurisdiction.

Finally, the court holds that IDEM's interim process was not rulemaking, and therefore didn't need to comply with the formal rulemaking requirements.

The most interesting part is the concurring opinion penned by Justice Sullivan and joined by Chief Justice Shepard. J. Sullivan points out that the developer, Twin-Eagle, never tried to work with IDEM to resolve the dispute; in fact no dispute with IDEM even existed when they started this case. Generally, parties who feel they've been aggrieved by an administrative action are required to 'exhaust their administrative remedies' prior to seeking redress in the courts. Here the developer asked to be relieved of this requirement and, on that issue, they succeeded but it was a victory of the Pyrrhic variety since the ultimate result was both a defeat in court and a tremendously weakened bargaining position when negotiating with IDEM.

One can only speculate that the developers impatience in seeking a judicial remedy from a merely anticipated regulatory impact might have been less than impressive to the state's Supreme Court justices. IMO, it'a always best to slog through the administrative procedure even when it seems hopeless.

KRLog notes - posted 9.18.2003

not to worry, it was all pre-killed

Recent coverage of the manure spill on Curtis Ditch in Jasper County (Cleanup, testing continue at Jasper manure spill - 9.19.03 - Sarver - Gary Post Tribune) indicates that there was no fish kill because Curtis Ditch has no aquatic life. Okay; why doesn't Curtis Ditch have any aquatic life? Even the tiniest little creeklet ought to have a few minnows or darters. The central mudminnow, for example, can survive in amazingly tiny, oxygen depleted waters.

Now, I don't know anything about Curtis Creek, perhaps there's a logical explanation. If a reader has one, please share it with us by sending e-mail. I'd simply suggest that this shows how important citizen vigilence is. IDEM can't be watching every creek in Indiana. They need to get reports when there's a problem.

I'm not demonizing livestock producers either. Some are good, some are bad, but mostly they're concerned about their livestock. Many, probably most, simply aren't going to consider a polluted creek to be a big issue unless it starts making their stock sick.

KRLog notes - posted 9.17.2003
[IDEM press release dated 9.16.2003]

IDEM investigates Jasper County manure spill

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) is investigating a manure spill that impacted about 15 miles of Curtis Ditch in Jasper County.

The Jasper County Health Department notified IDEM of the spill Tuesday at 1:30 p.m., although preliminary investigations indicate that the spill has been ongoing for an undetermined amount of time. IDEM on-scene coordinators observed large pools of manure in a field adjacent to the Windy Ridge Dairy at 1652 North 1100 West near Rensselaer. Spilled manure was observed flowing through the field, across a farm road and into nearby Curtis Ditch.

No aquatic life was impacted in Curtis Ditch, which is a tributary of the Iroquois River. Preliminary water sampling in the waterway showed ammonia levels potentially dangerous to aquatic life. So far, the contamination has not impacted the Iroquois River.

IDEM on-scene coordinators, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers and health officials at the scene are continuing to assess other environmental impacts caused by the spill. They will remain at the site to determine the extent of the contamination and assess necessary cleanup procedures.

While an official cause has yet to be determined, initial investigation indicates the manure could have overflowed as a result of a mechanical failure of farm irrigation equipment.

KRLog notes - posted 9.16.2003

seeing wolves?

A recent IndyStar story, Crying wolf? recounts speculation sparked by the recent recovery of a dead wild wolf in the field in east central Indiana.

The Kankakee River region was known as excellent wolf habitat before the species was extirpated; lack of den sites limited bears and cougars leaving the top of the carnivore food chain to this hardy and social canine. Owing to it's location south of Lake Michigan and south of the urbanized areas on the lake's rim, the Kankakee River region would be a likely place to spot an adventurous young wolf seeking new territory. If they've learned to deal with modern humans in northern Wisconsin, it's not clear that they couldn't learn to do the same in Indiana. I'm not sure how, exactly, to tell a wolf from a big coyote.

KRLog notes - posted 9.4.2003

new online: DeMotte based KVPost

Today marks the first KRLog link to the Kankakee Valley Post-News, on the net at kvpostnews.com. The KVPost is based in DeMotte, Indiana; that's Jasper County. It's great to see this attractive, well-executed online resource from south of the river!

KRLog notes - posted 9.3.2003

update on CAFO issue in Starke County

In a copyrighted story published in the Leader August 28, and not available online, reporter John Reed recounted the August 21 Starke Co. Board of Zoning Appeals (SCBZA) hearing addressing an application by N & L Pork, Inc. for a confined feeding operation permit to be located 300 feet from a ditch on CR 500 North in northeastern Starke County. According to the report N & L Pork, Inc. is 'owned by a partnership comprised' of Lee Nagai, Brad Lawrence and Todd Lawrence. The SCBZA tabelled the permit request until its September meeting.

Reed reports that about seventy people attended the meeting; apparently most to voice their opposition. Odor, risk of groundwater contamination, deleterious effects on neighboring property values and perceived inadequate oversight by IDEM were cited as objections. Attorney E. Scott Treadway of the Indianapolis firm of Tabbert, Hahn, Earnest and Weddle, LLP, represents opponents of the permit application.

The article in the Leader suggests that atty. Treadway's practice is devoted to opposition to confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), but note that his official bio linked above describes his areas of practice as 'commercial litigation, construction, real estate and administrative law'. In any event, Mr. Treadway clearly has expertise in the area of CAFO regulation -- he represented Save the Valley, Inc. in a successful action in U.S. District Court (Southern District of Indiana) complaining of IDEM's failure to adhere to federal water pollution law (the NPDES). Here's the opinion of the court ordering IDEM to do a better job [in .pdf]. For more background on the significance of this decision, captioned as Save the Valley, Inc. v. U.S. EPA, 223 F.Supp. 2d 997, 1012-1015 (S.D. Ind. 2002), read State's NPDES/CAFO Program must comply with Clean Water Act [Kiiha - Nat'l AgLaw Reporter - .pdf]

Spokesperson for the opponents is Ruth Schwenk, a teacher at Oregon-Davis Schools who lives near the proposed CAFO. Other nearby residents complained about odors from an already existing CAFO at the site.

The applicants responded that their project is state of the art and that they need to intensify production to stay competitive. They assert that they operate a 'family farm'. N & L Pork, Inc. is represented by atty. Charles Weaver of the Knox firm Nichols, Wallsmith and Weaver. According to Reed's account, Atty. Weaver stated that the proposed project, at 5,000 head, is not a large operation and is locally owned and operated. Reed's article states that applicant Nagai said the manure produced will be used as organic fertilizer and would be less hazardous to the environment than commerical fertilizers.

The report also states that the Starke Co. Plan Commission (not the same as the BZA) 'is forming a blue ribbon panel' to draft a plan for controlling CAFOs in Starke County. [editor's comment: I hope this panel will include some people with some decent pro-environment credentials.]

The Leader and the other Plymouth Pilot related newspapers are not currently posting any content online; they are, however, making a better newspaper of late. As always, we invite readers to e-mail their comments.

KRLog notes - posted 8.21.2003

offline - Lee Nagai defends prop'd hog facility

The August 21, 2003 edition of the Leader includes a letter to the editor from the permit applicant Lee Nagai seeking approval for a confined hog 'finishing' facility in the Hamlet area. Mr. Nagai says it's a family farm operation, and that all facilities are state of the art with full pollution controls. He says that no waste is exposed outside, and that it's all disposed as fertilizer. [note: the Leader isn't currently posting stories online]

Eternal vigilance department:
cable the blue sky?

The ever onward march of population growth and consumerism poses endless threats to the environment, and to all of us who care about the quality of our lives.

It seems inevitable we'll be soon seeing proposals to drastically increase the cabling of our sky. The recent blackout in the northeast has provided impetus to efforts to increase the amount of high capacity transmission lines. Some suggest adding as much as 30,000 miles to the grid. link: Selling the Public on More Lines (WaPost)

Look at a map and it's easy to see that many of these high voltage lines are likely to run through the Kankakee River region. The engineers are going to need to get those wires around Lake Michigan, and the Kankakee River region is the first relatively undeveloped area that you encounter south of the big lake.

You say you don't like the idea of a bunch of towers cutting through the remaining woodlands of the region? You don't enjoy the sight and sound of wires overhead? Expect to be tagged a NIMBY-ite. You know, 'Not In My BackYard'. Well okay then, damn straight, not in my backyard. You can sure bet the folks who profit from these ventures don't put them in their backyard. They'd be the first to say, "but I live in an exclusive neighborhood!". That 'exclusive' means their neighborhood excludes riff-raff - you know, like us hicks up and down the Kankakee.

Yes, we all use electricity. Yes, we all want reliability in our service delivery systems, and perhaps most of all in the electrical grid. However, a system that relies on transporting electricity over long distances to populated areas is inherently wasteful, vulnerable, and expensive.

When long distance delivery systems fail (as they just have), one alternative is to make them more robust. However, there's another option: reduce our dependency on long distance transmission by generating more power closer to where it's being used. If you live in the Kankakee River region and don't want ten more high voltage towers every direction you look you might seriously consider asking your legislator to look at the second option - before it's too late. The industry zillionaires and the city folks don't care, that's for sure.

KRLog notes - posted 8.15.2003

KVHS announces new book:
Diary of a Kankakee River Guide

The Kankakee Valley Historical Society recently announced publication of a new book of interest of Kankakee River enthusiasts, and anyone with an interest in regional history. Here's an excerpt from their August newsletter, by KVHS president John Hodson:

The book is titled: The Diary of a Kankakee River Guide - George Wilcox. George was the caretaker and guide of the famous Pittsburgh Clubhouse at Baum’s Bridge. The diary is from January 1st, 1916 to July, 1917.

Sarah Miller owns the old Wilcox home on Baum’s Bridge Rd. and graciously permitted KVHS to publish the diary. Sarah and Beverly Overmyer have been extremely helpful in the development of the book.

The book is around a hundred pages long and has about twenty-five historic pictures to go along with the diary text. George mentions events in the diary and I was able to locate related newspaper articles and have included them in an appendix along with bios of some of the persons mentioned.

I find the diary fascinating! Along with many of the mundane chores of working his farm George mentions many personal events such as purchasing his first car (Lizzie), trips to Indianapolis and Chicago, interaction with his friends and neighbors (George mentions the Colliers many times) and the trauma of dealing with his wife’s struggles with cancer which she eventually succumbed to in 1921.

Although Lew Wallace died eleven years before the diary was written, George does mention Lew’s son Henry. Henry continued to visit and hunt the Kankakee on his father’s property near Baum’s Bridge.

We’re asking $20 per copy but, KVHS members can purchase it for $15...KVHS will have a stand at the Kouts Porkfest on August 23rd and will offer George’s diary on sale along with Ira Fry’s The Kankakee River volume 1 & 2. Please visit us, look at what we’ll have on display and support KVHS projects and programs by purchasing our publications, joining KVHS or making a donation. We’ll also have the diary on sale at the Kouts Town Hall within a week.

[reprinted by permission of the author]

KRLog notes - posted 8.14.2003

A little blog-talk

A quick guide to my abrevs

I try to keep 'blog-talk' to a minimum here, but I thought I should take a minute or two to clarify some of the abreviations I use. Note that as of today, I'll henceforth refer to the Times of Northwest Indiana (a/k/a the Merrilleville Times) as nwiTimes. This is in keeping with their spiffy new domain name, 'nwitimes.com'. Older references will remain Times/NWI.

Despite some discomfort with use of 'Kank', I shorthand the the Kankakee Daily-Journal as the KankD-J. The South Bend Tribune is shortened to SoBndTrib. The Indianapolis Star is the IndyStar, which is how they refer to their website.

To give credit to another blog or newsletter for bringing to my attention an interesting link, I use the shorthand 'link X' meaning, 'link found at'. For example, you'll often see 'link X IER'. IER is the Indiana Environmental Report, a daily newsletter.

The second entry in my credits list is the author as credited in the by-line.

Magazine is shortened to mag. Chicago is shortened to chi, so for example, the Chicago Sun-Times is shortened to: ChiSunTimes

The recent discussion of the appropriateness of calling the Kankakee River the Kank prompted me to stop and think about how I use these abreviations. I apologize to readers who find them ugly or annoying. I assure everyone they aren't intended to be disrespectful; the purpose is to give credit. To those with an Orwellian distaste for newspeak, I share your pain but brevity seems to fit the web medium.

Seven years of BigE!

Recently I heard conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly decrying indy online publishers saying that there 'need to be controls' over this sort of activity. O'Reilly said (on NBC's Today Show, if memory serves), 'some guy in a basement in Terre Haute, Indiana' is posting political commentary on the web, implying that such activities need to be stopped. Well, Mr. O'Reilly, I resemble that comment, and I don't intend to stop anytime soon.

On August 22, 2003 BigEastern.com will mark the beginning of its eighth year online. In those years the web has changed a lot, and I've learned a few things too. In my opinion the web is a great way to leverage off of multiple information sources at a low cost. To do that, it's critical to consistently identify all the information sources, because users need to be able to evaluate the objectivity and credibility of sources, and do so quickly. At the same time, bloggers need to respect the intellectual property rights of the primary publishers of the information.

My usage logs for this calendar year indicate that BigEastern.com has already had more than 100,000 page views, and the Kankakee River Log main page alone has attracted more than 10,000 page views. So that guy in Terre Haute (well, in this case North Judson) is alive and well and less in need of Bill O'Reilly every day.

To all you readers out there, thanks for coming by. Y'all come back now, ya'hear?

KRLog notes - posted 8.11.2003

To Kank or not to Kank

Ed Mullady and Bill Byrns are right to resist the overuse of 'the Kank' (link: No 'Kank'), but there's a place for shorthand terms on the web and in e-mail. It's an informal, fast moving medium and people want to get to the information they're seeking ASAP, IMO...oops, there I go again.

I'm a Kankakee River region native, albeit the upstream part (you know, where all the problems come from), and I never heard anybody call it the 'Kank' until recently. I heard them call it 'the ditch' though, and that's much worse. On the other hand, 'Kank' is kind of ugly sounding. The early names Theakiki and Aukiki are prettier, but at some point our forebearers settled on Kankakee. It appears to be an anglicized version of a francophone version of a native american word; so it is that languages evolve.

Personally, though, I think calling it 'the Kank' is more affectionate than disrespectful. Ask anybody with a name with three syllables; they'll tell you they've got a nickname that's just one. Most won't feel dissed; some may. I'd say it's like any other nickname; one should use it with discretion.

KRLog notes - posted 8.6.2003

School troubles here in North Judson

Area schools make 'needs improvement' list in state - NJ-SP's Liberty Elementary on Year 3 status of low-performance schools. [8.6.03 - Wanbaugh - SoBndTrib]

This is a little off-topic for the KRLog, but it hits close to home here at Becknell and Lucas Media, Ltd., in North Judson, Indiana. We're seeing the long-term economic decline in the land south of the Kankakee starting to have serious socio-economic impacts. Simply stated, too many kids here come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the school has too little resources to solve the problem. Too many families with the means are sending their children to private schools. And this is in a community that is pretty close knit and lacking in any racial issues to speak of. The Kankakee River region is sorely in need of economic revitalization; farming is important, but it's not enough.

KRLog notes - posted 8.1.2003

Waiting for consensus

Bill Byrns' article Corps sends mixed message on river projects is a must-read for everybody interested in the status of efforts to improve conditions along the Kankakee and its tribs. But, as usual, I have a teeny-tiny bone to pick.

Somehow, I get the impression that there's a predisposition to support expensive projects being expressed between the lines - a sense that anytime a project proposed locally doesn't get funded it's bad news, and a sign that the needs of the Kankakee region are being neglected.

I think it's a good thing that the Army Corps has started getting more serious about the cost/benefit analysis portion of the project decision making process. When a project doesn't produce enough benefits, it shouldn't happen. When nothing happens, nature takes her course, and that's likely to be at least a little good. Pushing ahead local projects mainly because they bring in federal money is the essence of pork-barreling.

Sure, engineers, biologists, hydrologists and other scientists and techs may come up with some good ideas for making the river better, for restoring, and for helping nature to heal. It's also a fact that many of the problems (maybe most) originated in ill-conceived human interventions. The Army Corps has built many water projects that ended up causing more problems than they fixed, and cost a ton of taxpayers dollars to boot. If we've learned anything about public works projects involving water resources it's that 'fools rush in where angels fear to tread'.

If there's a consensus out there about how to manage the Kankakee River and watershed better for the benefit of all the competing interests in a balanced and cost effective way, I haven't noticed it. Here in Indiana, there are still plenty of 'do what we always done, dredge, doze and spray' types; I'm certainly glad they aren't getting a pile of federal money to have their way with the river.

When a consensus is achieved, it's likely things will start happening. Until it is achieved, it's probably best that projects stay small. Maybe we'll see some of them producing results that at least most of us can get enthusiastic about. For now, maybe no news isn't good news, but it's not so bad either.

KRLog notes - posted 7.21.2003

Rain and mosquitoes

The seemingly constant barrage of T-storms had made for one of the greenest summers in memory - even the lowly dewberry is making big, juicy (albeit tart) berries. But while the woods looks inviting, it's not much fun out there right now. The mosquitoes are getting really thick, and really fierce. Don't even think about going into the woods without spraying yourself with repellant first. Take some with you too, in case it starts to wear off.

KRLog notes - posted 7.2.2003

Berry good year

It's been a good year for wild berries, and the best of them all - the wild black raspberry (a/k/a 'blackcaps' or, in Spanish 'frambueso negro') - is currently ready for picking. Look for them in in open woods and along roadsides, especially with north or east exposures. The berries are usually best where there's some decent fertility in the soil. Expect to be mobbed by mosquitoes while picking.

When picking, look for a good thicket of berries with plenty of large, juicy specimens. It's not unusual to find colonies with mostly shriveled little berries, probably due to one of the various pathogens that affects raspberry plants. These colonies may have a few good berries, but they're usually not worth bothering with.

The berries a delicious fresh, or on cereal, but I think the best use is black raspberry jam. It's critical to get as many of the seeds removed as possible. I use cheesecloth and quite a few seeds get through anyway. It's a lot of work, but the jam is heavenly. On a bleak January morning it tastes like summer sunshine.

Sure, you could buy some at the store. Some of the gourmet brands are really about as good as homemade. But there's something about doing it yourself. For me, it's a midsummer ritual.

One more thing - when I say 'black raspberry' I'm referring to rubus occidentalis, not to be confused with the wild blackberry.

KRLog notes - posted 6.25.2003

Time to pick the 'early low blueberry'

The ample rains we received this spring bode well for the coming berry picking season. Right now, vaccinium angustifolium, the early low blueberry, is in the early stages of fruiting. Several species of wild blueberry and huckleberry grow in woodlands in the Kankakee river region, especially in sandy oak woodlands, but this species is the best. Typically, picking is made difficult by the simultaneous 'blooming' of the mosquito population.

The berries I've tried this year have had excellent flavor. Quantities are good but not outstanding; possibly the gloomy weather during their flowering phase limited pollination. It looks like the best bet for picking this year will be on Friday or Saturday after the predicted cold front comes through.

KRLog notes - posted 6.23.2003

Miami Tribe will get voice in treatment of prehistoric human remains

Kudos to Indiana Gov. O'Bannon on his executive order creating an American Indian Commission for Indiana. Gov. O'Bannon issued the order, in part, to ensure that the Miami Tribe of Indiana would be able to participate.

The Miamis were the principal native people of the Kankakee River region during the late prehistoric period at least, most probably being the same people that created the artifacts now called 'Upper Mississippian', characterized by elegant shell tempered pottery, small triangular arrow-points, drills and probably hoes. These artifacts bear witness to the proud culture of the Miamis, who were influenced it appears by the more urbanized culture of the Middle Mississippian temple mound cultures in the big river valleys to the south.

The 'temple mound cultures' left behind massive pyramidal mounds in places like Cahokia, Illinois, and Angel Site near Evansville, Indiana. While the Miamis didn't build large monuments like their counterparts downstream, they both practiced corn agriculture using a more modern variety than the 'flint corn' grown by most of the Algonquin tribes farther to the east.

Indiana's new commission will deal with issues such as appropriate treatment for native burial sites. It appears highly likely that a significant percentage of human burials on native sites along the Kankakee represent the ancestors of the Miami Tribe. It would have been a serious omission to exclude them from participation in decisions about these matters.

For more read: Governor to create American Indian commission [6.22.03 - AP - IndyStar].

KRLog notes - posted 6.17.2003

Last week here, I mentioned that I was taking part in the Chicago region 'grassland bird blitz', and effort to document the status of grassland dependent bird species in the region, especially breeding status. On Sunday I did my bit; not that I'm an expert at identifying birds by any means.

Working on these kinds of projects is always a learning experience. One thing I learned was that there's a great web site collecting and disseminating data about bird distributions. Here's the link: eBird. It's truly a first rate web site, and if you're interested in birds you'll want to check it out, register and think about posting some of your observations too.

KRLog notes - posted 6.16.2003

A hearty 'here-here' for Bob Themer's Why not try 'Roadsides for Wildflowers?' - we live in an area blessed with an abundance of beautiful native wildflowers, with a very long blooming season. Leaving roadsides (mostly) unmowed would save taxpayers money (probably the best reason), save fossil fuels, cut air pollution, and improve upland bird and butterfly habitat. Mowers are also polluters: they usually run much dirtier than auto engines, air pollution wise, and almost all of them make noise pollution. In my opinion (not based on data, but simply observation) roadside mowing is also a significant source of the spread of invasive alien plants, especially the dreaded garlic mustard.

In most places here in the Kankakee Sand Region nothing much would need to be done at all - the prairie forbs would move back in on their own and so it wouldn't be necessary to worry about planting prairie seeds. In some areas, the roadside could be scheduled for mowings on about a three year rotation to keep woody vegetation at bay. Of course, strips in front of homes or businesses could continue to be mowed, and a safety zone around intersections could get regular mowing, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to monitor for noxious weeds, especially canada thistle.

KRLog notes - posted 6.13.2003

From now until June 20, I'm participating in the Grassland Bird Blitz sponsored by the Audubon Society and Chicago Wilderness. I'm not really an expert at identifying birds by the song; especially those flitty little brownish sparrows that nest in tallgrass prairie. But I'm going to try. It'll be a learning experience. Learning is fun once it's over with...the process seems painful, somehow.

SVI Press Release - posted 6.4.2003

SVI Announces Online Conservation Conference Dates

The Sportsman's Voice Group will host an Online Conservation Conference (OCC) on the following dates and times:

Wednesday June 4th at 7:00 p.m.
Friday, June 6th at 6:00 p.m.
Sportsman's Voice website chat room
enter from the SVI Main Page.

Registration is required; you'll need a a username and valid e-mail address to do so. SVI asks participants who aren't already registered on the site to use their first name and last initial as username. Nicknames are discouraged for this event.

This OCC will be moderated. Be prepared to discuss your current projects, and to take notes regarding other's ideas. The list of people and organizations contacted regarding this online conference is extensive and varied, involving all facets of conservation in Illinois and surrounding states. SVI plans are to hold more online conferences, and looks forward to your help in making this unprecedented activity a success.

SVI will be setting up a private forum for organizations to use for discussing ongoing conservation projects. SVI says "it's evident that none of us can accomplish our common objectives alone, so it's important that we start networking in a live environment to achieve these goals. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, so let's make this work together."

[editor's note - this press release has been slightly edited to fit our format and style. The KRLog offers free posting of announcements, information and opinions relevant to our subject matter coverage; send e-mail to marty@bigeastern.com.]

KRLognotes - New faces at PlyPilot - 6.4.2003

In a 5.15.2003 KRLog note I described the poor quality of the newspaper coverage in Starke County. Maybe somebody was listening; the publisher of the Plymouth Pilot (more or less the flagship pub of the group) has been replaced and rumors are suggesting that other changes may be in the offing. I'd like to say I expect better coverage in Starke County, but that remains to be seen. Here's a link to (enjoy the absurdly large photo - on my monitor, he's actual size): Pilot News names new executives [6.3.03 - PlyPilot]

KRLognotes - Poker? 6.2.2003

When I think of the Kankakee, I think of quite a few things: the ditch/river Indiana/Illinois drainage/recreation dualism first. The unique ecology of the region with its sand country prairies, wetlands and savannas second. Then I think of the region's small towns - close, mostly low crime, green and quaint, but also with a dark side - a distinct lack of opportunity, and too often, a distinct narrowmindedness as well.

Poker - that's hardly a typical topic. But the prehistory of the Kankakee as the ancestral home of the Miami nation is a current topic in an article in Poker Magazine. We link to a wide range of sources here at the KRLog, but this one's a first: Gary Mayor Wants To Speed Up Casino Talks

KRLognotes - buzzzzzzz - 5.28.2003

It's underway - mosquito season in the Kankakee River region. On the plus side, when the skeeters are biting, the fish usually are biting too. In the past I never much worried about them, I've been bitten so many times I'm mostly immune. But now we have West Nile to contend with. Keep in mind that the species of mosquitoes that carry W.Nile are often the urban variety, so it's not necessarily safer to be in town than out in the woods. In fact, the contrary appears to be the case. It's especially important to be sure that there aren't any human made objects holding water; that's where the bad mosquitoes breed - trash, old tires, plugged gutters, that sort of thing. They've always been ugly, but now they're dangerous too.

KRLognotes - new Archive page - 5.19.2003

This page has been getting kind of big lately, so to keep downloads from getting too slow I've added a new KRLog notes Archive page. When notes, letters, or opinions are over thirty days or so old they'll move over to the archive page. Articles and letters of continuing interest will (eventually) get their own page, when I get around to it.

KRLognotes - Leaderless - 5.15.2003

Doing the KRLog on a more-or-less daily basis, I get a pretty good picture of what's happening in the world on online journalism throughout the Kankakee River region. We're lucky to have coverage by two really excellent sources: the Kankakee Daily-Journal in Illinois, and the Times of Northwest Indiana.

Sadly, the part of the region I live in, Starke County, is currently very poorly covered. The undisputed worst online news source (and one of the worst newspapers) is the Knox Leader (f/k/a the Starke County Leader). Here's a link to their online coverage: Knox Leader - truly pathetic. It seems the Leaders' publisher lives in Ohio somewhere. She writes a weekly 'editorial' recounting her family's trial and tribulations. Meanwhile, local news, sports and event are mostly ignored.

This community deserves better. Veteran reporter Terry Turner has started a new, free paper, the Newshawk. It's a modest production, but promising.

KRLognotes - spring migration - 5.15.2003

The spring migration of woodland birds is in full swing. Here are some of the birds we've seen at Lena Park in the past few days in no particular order: Olive backed thrush, wood thrush, scarlet tanager, northern oriole, indigo bunting, blue-winged warbler, bell's vireo, phoebe, eastern wood pewee, kingfisher, great blue heron, barred owl, goldfinch, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, olive-sided flycatcher, bay breasted warbler, redstart, yellow-shafted flicker, woodcock, mallard, rufus-sided towhee, ruby-throated hummingbird, chipping sparrow. It seems that this last wave of rain (last night) has brough in some of the later migrants, but it was hard to see them in the gloomy light.

KRLognotes - morel days - 5.8.2003

After a dry early spring, we've had ample rains here in the Upper Kankakee region, and that means morels. They're out there now, if you know where to look.

Be careful - don't overindulge, and be sure of your identification. Clean and cook them thoroughly. My wife says the simple breaded and pan fried method can't be beat - they're a bit like calamari. Try them sauteed in a rue sauce with a light amount of fresh garlic, pepper and herbs; serve over a bed of fresh steamed asparagus.

Here are some decent morel related links, including a couple of recipes:

Press Release - 5.8.2003

NWF and Save the Dunes urge veto of Wetlands Bill

In the waning hours of their 2003 session on Saturday, April 26, the Indiana General Assembly passed H.B. 1798, a bill to enable counties to implement federal stormwater regulations. Unrelated legislation that had effectively died due to differences between House and Senate versions was revived, hastily melded together, and attached to the stormwater bill. While neither of the original bills would have provided strong protection for the state’s at-risk wetlands (their purported intent), the melded legislation, possibly due to last minute drafting errors, is much worse than either bill and opens up exempted waters – up to 95 percent of the state’s wetlands and ponds – to claims by developers that they may pursue unlimited pollution and destruction of these waters.

While the original intent of the House and Senate bills was to establish a permitting program for "isolated" wetlands that had lost protection under the Federal Clean Water Act due to a 2001 Supreme Court ruling, the final bill goes much further, and due to confusing wording, could be interpreted to impact the vast majority of all wetlands in the state.

H.B. 1798 explicitly states that "private ponds" are not included as protected "waters of the state." It then goes on to define the term "pond" as "a natural surface water that is smaller than ten (10) acres at the ordinary high water mark..." This leaves the estimated 95% of the state’s wetlands (not just "isolated" wetlands) and ponds that are under 10 acres open to claims by developers and industry that these waters are not subject to any permitting requirements for industrial, residential or any other discharges of pollutants, or from drainage filling or other destructive activities. This puts ALL of the state’s waters at risk of vastly increased water pollution and would put the state in conflict with its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act.

IDEM estimates that 30 percent of the state’s wetlands might be considered "isolated" and thus potentially not protected under the federal Clean Water Act. Current Indiana law requires protection for all wetlands in the state. A lawsuit challenging the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s ability to implement this law is pending before the Indiana Supreme Court. Developers and polluters are not waiting for the Supreme Court to rule, however and have been hard at work, pushing to weaken state law protecting wetlands.

Confusingly, H.B. 1798 divides "isolated" wetlands into three categories and retains current levels of protection only for the highest Category (Class III) wetlands, which are limited to extremely rare types of wetlands and those areas nearly completely undisturbed by humans (under a similar system in Ohio, developers quickly learned how to "disturb" wetlands until they are no longer considered high quality).

About 80 percent of Indiana’s "isolated" wetlands would likely be considered Class I wetlands – those impacted by development or with low species diversity and invasive species invasions. Most impacts to these wetlands are exempt from permitting requirements under H.B. 1798.

Also exempted are impacts to any "isolated" wetlands that exist "as an incidental feature in or on..." residential lawns, lawns or landscaped areas of a commercial or governmental complex, agricultural lands, etc. It also exempts all fringe wetlands surrounding ponds or any man-made waterway (like a reservoir or man-made lake). It would appear that a developer could build, or landscape around a wetland and then claim that it is in their "lawn," thus exempt!

Governor O'Bannon's e-mail address is: fobannon@state.in.us.

[The above is a press release regarding legislation currently on Indiana Governor O'Bannon's desk. The KRLog provides an open forum for responsible opinions - I've yet to form an opinion on this subject (though my first impression is that the legislation looks pretty bad), and as always, I welcome varying viewpoints. ml]

KRLog notes - 4.23.2003

River Geometry, Bank Erosion and Sand Bars within the Main Stem of the Kankakee River in Illinois and Indiana - a 77p (in .pdf) dealing with the erosion and sedimentation issues on the Kankakee River - shows that the channelization of the river in Indiana results in erosion there, and deposition at the terminus of the channelized portion at the state line, accumulating about 10k tons of sediment between 1980 and 1999 - remedies proposed aim to reduce of sedimentation through riparian corridor buffer zones, retention ponds in tributaries, installation of grade control structures, and selective recreation of river and tributary meanders. [June 2001 - Bhowmilk and Demissie - IL-DNR]

Letters - 5.6.2003

Lorraine Minkus:
local residents oppose new Stateline Bridge

I am writing this letter on behalf of Mrs. Sophie Wilkas, the land owner on the north and south side of the Kankakee River (Illinois/Indiana state line) and my brother who is the 20+ year lessee on the south side of the river. I received a copy of the Minutes of 11/21/02 Consultation Meeting in which there were several statements attributed to Mrs. Wilkas which are completely inaccurate. I have shared a copy of this document with Mrs. Wilkas with the following results. For the record, Mrs. Wilkas will never donate her land, nor sell her land for the construction of a new bridge at the state line on the Kankakee River. In fact, she is extremely angry that anyone would assume that this was the case. I quote Mr. Wilkas, "I am mad. No one ever talked to me. I will not donate my land. I will not sell my land. I want the old bridge fixed. We do not need a two lane bridge here."

The people living in the area have never been consulted regarding the disposition of this bridge, nor have the fishermen and hunters who use the area. It’s about time that this bridge is fixed. It has been six years since this bridge has been closed. It has destroyed Mrs. Wilkas' bait business. She lives on a fixed income and the little bit of money she earned to help with her living expenses has disappeared. Since the bridge has been closed, it means that anyone wanting to get to the north/south side of the river has to drive between 27 and 32 miles either west through Momence or east using Route 41 (to go from the south side of the river to the north or from the north side of the river to the south).

Regarding the safety of the local residents, the Momence Fire Department and Police Department does not come to the aid of the people living there. The fire trucks will fit when crossing the current bridge. It is the Sheriff’s Department that comes when there is trouble. They know the area and know how to get to the people in trouble. Where was the Momence Fire Department when the river rose so fast it endangered Mrs. Wilkas and her tenants on the north side of the river? It was the Schneider volunteer group that came out and sand bagged to save the homes. The current bridge, when repaired and correctly maintained, will withstand the weight of a fire truck as well as accommodate the height of the vehicle.

Finally, a two lane bridge will create a disaster that none of us would want to live with. Cars will speed over the bridge. They can’t know because they have to slow down to let an oncoming car cross the bridge. Children playing and fishing on the bridge will be injured or even killed. Talk to the Indiana Conservation Officers…they also feel that two lanes would create accidents that can be prevented. Wildlife will be destroyed by the cars and trucks speeding on the approach to the bridge. The new nine wild turkeys released to years ago in the LaSalle Wildlife Area won’t have a chance against speeding vehicles. A new bridge is not needed. All of the people living there as well as those who visit the area do not want a new bridge. The old bridge is part of our history. Its restoration would maintain a way of life that is important to the residents, visitors, and wildlife. It brings a quality of life to the area that is priceless.

Should you have any questions regarding any of the above, feel free to contact me through my email address (lminkus@rush.edu) or by phone (office 312-942-6858 or home 773-327-0253).

The KRLog welcomes all responsible opinions regarding issues affecting the river, its watershed and the human and natural communities that call it home. Got an opinion? Send e-mail to Marty Lucas.

KRLog notes - 5.1.2003

Rain, lightning, more rain - warm temperatures - humidity, mist - whipporwills and thrushes singing at dusk. May 1; looks like time to seek the elusive morel.

KRLog notes - 4.30.2003

Search and destroy:
Garlic Mustard

If you're managing a natural woodland area in the Kankakee River region, whether it's a big preserve or a little woodlot next to your home, you should be aware of the garlic mustard problem, and what you can do about it. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is an alien weed that is currently invading woodlands around the Kankakee River region, and may cause significant environmental disruption. While there are many alien species of plants and animals causing problems throughout North America, garlic mustard is one of the few that aggressively invades relatively undisturbed woodland areas. Nothing much eats it and it produces chemicals that may poison the soil for more beneficial native plants.

I won't get into all the details here, you can get those by following the links. But I will say that timing is very important is the control of invasive alien weeds, in my experience. As they say, weeds can't wait. The best way to control garlic mustard is to pull it out by hand and remove the plants from the woods. That's labor intensive, but effective if the area of infestation isn't too big. Now's the time to get out into your woods and seek and destroy these invaders.

KRLog notes - 4.25.2003

For the past week or so I've had the pleasure of observing the nesting behavior of the Eastern Phoebe up close at the cabin at Lena Park. A pair of phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) are contructing a nest using a log under the north eaves as a ledge. These tame little insect eaters build a very neat and comfortable looking nest: its primarily made from fresh moss they collect from where it grows on trees - watching them collect the moss, they seemed to collect all of it from at least ten feet off the ground. Somehow, they make a platform out of the moss. Published accounts say they line the interior with grass.

KRLog notes - 4.16.2003

Main Street isn't, developer says - Developer Tom Fleming says Crown Point's office district is shifting to Broadway and I-65, surpassing Main Street. [4.16.03 - Spivak - Times/NWI]

I featured this link on April 16 because it illustrates a challenge facing economic development and planning leaders throughout the Kankakee River region. We'd all like to minimize sprawl, and reinvigorate our old downtown areas. But economic forces are pulling new development dollars into new areas; especially those with newer construction and better access to current arterial roads and highways. Planning and zoning authorities need to take into account the business realities facing developers (and their clients) so that they can get what they need. Otherwise they'll simply move on to somewhere with lax regulation, resulting in all of the well known evils of sprawl. You can't turn back the clock; historic downtown areas may need to be reconfigured for new uses, including residential and light commercial.

KRLog notes - 4.9.2003

Dunn's Bridge Restored

Dunn's Bridge, one of the most important historic sites on the Upper Kankakee River has been successfully restored by Porter County government. The bridge will be the centerpiece of a new county park.

I haven't gotten over to view the restoration yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Bridge photographer Peter Dutcher was kind enough to share a couple of his images of the newly restored bridge; one is being used as our current cover up at the top left of this page. You can visit Peter's web site at: peterdutcher.com, it includes an extensive collection of photographs of historical covered bridges. I've processed and reduced in size Peter's original image to fit into the KRLog's format, but bridge (and history) buffs will want to look at his original images. Peter's posted them online on his site; here's a direct link to his large, full color images of the restored Dunn's Bridge, along with background information. The restored bridge is painted an attractive gold color.

I wrote a piece about Dunn's Bridge for WKVI.com back in 1998, discussing the legends, lore and history of its link to the Worlds Fairs in Chicago and St. Louis near the dawn of the 20th century. The article, White City Legacy: the legend of Dunn's Bridge [note - scan down page]. In 1998 the bridge was rusty, creaky, and dilapidated. It seemed unlikely that the bridge would be saved, let alone restored.

The restored bridge will be officially opened later this year but the restoration is already receiving kudos. A recent Vicki Urbanik article Photo: Dunn's Bridge restoration wins state engineering award says the restoration was honored at the 15th annual Engineering Excellence Banquet sponsored by the American Council of Engineering Companies.

Good things can happen on the Kankakee!

KRLog notes - 4.7.2003

Newshawk reports MacKillop appointed Starke Co. Surveyor

In the most recent edition of the Starke County Newshawk, veteran regional reporter Terry Turner reports that the Purdue student Mark MacKillop has been selected by the Starke Co. Republican Party Caucus to replace retiring surveyor Todd Lienbach.

The copyrighted story, apparently also carried by the Gary Post-Tribune, indicates that MacKillop will continue as a full-time student at Purdue, and will be seeking course credits there for his work as Starke County Surveyor. MacKillop gained notoriety in his recent campaign for a seat on the Starke Co. Council, where his bid to unseat popular Democratic councilman Bruce Fingerhut fell short by one vote.

The Newshawk is a newly launched newspaper articles and editorials by Terry Turner, in apparent response to recent editorial changes at the Knox Leader.

KRLog notes - 4.4.2003

Support your local regulator!

A recent piece in Indy based alt-pub NUVO, Hope for our rivers and landscapes by Indianapolis rivers activist Clarke Kahlo, illustrates a core problem in river corridor management in Indiana; the regulatory authorities aren't taken seriously due to a history of lax enforcment. However, this seemingly unlikely enviro-villain, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, became the first to be fined for a violation under new rules. While the fine is small, esp. for such a wealthy institution, it is nevertheless a sign that things might be changing in Indiana, at least in highly visible locations like downtown Indianapolis. It happened after a public outcry - this shows that regulators, like IN-DNR, need public support for their enforcement activities.

An article published in today's IndyStar, State sues to close spill-prone hog farm gives additional signs of renewed vigor in environmental enforcement, with IDEM director Lori Kaplan saying "Clearly, the usual remedies have proven not to be enough. This operation must not be allowed to continue to pollute."

I don't fault IDEM or IN-DNR for flexibility, when that means working with violators to try to achieve compliance by giving technical advise and a bit of nagging. We really don't want to see penalties, lawsuits and fines. We want to see compliance. But when violators commit serious breaches time and time again, and when regulated parties (even other units of government, in many cases) virtually thumb their noses at the regulatory agencies it's time to crack some heads. In such situations I've often said to regulators (at IDEM and IN-DNR), "look, you're getting dissed - you've got to put a little fear into these scoflaws."

The problem is that the regulators don't get the support they need from the legislature. Lobbyists for particular interests (e.g. developers, manufacturing, and agriculture) are exploiting right-wing anti-regulatory rhetoric. Indiana legislators have a history of undercutting the regulatory efforts of IDEM and IN-DNR - they weaken their powers, and hobble them with inadequate funding. Nasty rumors of worse kinds of legislative interference circulate too.

Enforcement of environmental regulations is critical to preserving the health, welfare and quality of life of our citizens. The people downstream from the Pohlmann farm have a right to enjoy their creek free from hog feces. The average citizen has the right to canoe in Sugar Creek without contracting hepatitis. In the case of the Pohlmann hog farm, other farm families downstream were among the people complaining about the repeated violations. Enough!

It's time to support your local regulators; they are just as important as the police. In fact, the laws enforced by regulatory agencies often have more impact on the general public than those handled by the conventional police.

If you agree, make you voice heard. Write your state legislators asking them to get behind the regulatory agencies in their efforts to protect and restore our environment and landscapes.

KRLog notes - 4.2.2003

The bats are back in town

Yesterday evening was warm and gentle, with strong breezes from the south. These kinds of days bring in waves of migratory birds - bats too. In the crepuscular light a pair of bats were circling around the small clearing in front of the cabin at Lena Park. Based on their behavior they may have been migrating eastern red bats, lasiurus borealis.

KRLog notes - 3.27.2003

Whoopers amongst the sandhills

The cranes are in big time around the Kankakee River region. If ever there was an antidote to the persistant visions of war and suffering in the world, it's the site of a flock of cranes wheeling on springtime winds.

The sandhills seem to be more numerous than ever (unlike migratory ducks, which seem to be declining), and now there's a chance of a very special bonus. If you're lucky, you may be able to witness the snow white of a whooping crane migrating (embedded, I suppose you might say, these crazy days) amongst the thousands of pale grey sandhill cranes. I haven't been lucky enough to witness it, but Brian Williams describes it nicely in his essay published in the Times: A lesson that comes out of the air, lands in our hearts. My mother, Betty Lucas, reported a similar sight a couple of weeks ago.

Jasper-Pulaski is the undisputed Grand Central Station of the the Greater Eastern Sandhill Crane migration, but I saw hundreds (at least) roosting in nearby Kankakee Fish and Wildlife Area on the 24th. They were using a marsh on the south side of the Yellow River. It made for excellent afternoon viewing, because the sun was at my back and the blue water between me and the birds gave the scene some color, and also made the birds more comfortaable with my presence. The spot is accessible by a trail near the big sandpile on the west side of SR 39, just south of the Yellow River bridge.

I took a couple of photos with my digi-cam. They're not that great (a longer lense would have helped), but I've posted a couple here in case you want a closer look.

Downloadable photos:

photo: panoramic view of cranes at KF&WA

photo: cranes fly over marsh south of Yellow River at KF&WA

KRLog notes: 3.13.2003
Guest editorial: 3.11.2003

Response to Upfront editorial in March 2003 edition of Illinois Outdoors Magazine.

The editorial in the March 2003 Illinois Outdoors Magazine was a shocker to me.

It praised the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Refuge Program in Illinois and requested all to buy a Federal Duck Stamp to support the Wildlife Refuges.

I could hardly believe my eyes when I read the last paragraph:

"The [Illinois] Department of Natural Resources has enjoyed a strong and effective partnership with the Fish and Wildlife Service in managing Illinois' resource base. We extend our congratulations to its staff for 100 years of insightful management and look forward to working hand-in-hand over the next century."

During the past several years, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service spent a large amount of time and effort to establish a "Grand Kankakee Marsh Fish & Wildlife Refuge" in both Indiana and Illinois.

There was absolutely NO backing or cooperation I was aware of with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from the IL-DNR, the former Governor's office, the Kankakee County Board, the Kankakee River Basin Partnership, the Northern IL Anglers Ass'n or US Rep. Jerry Weller.

The Indiana DNR, the Lake County Indiana Board, the Indiana and Illinois Izaak Walton League, the Sierra Club, the Friends of the Kankakee, Prairie Rivers, the Kankakee Daily Journal, the Bourbonnais Herald and the Sportsman's Letter were for the program.

My big question is, "Has our new Governor in Illinois and the new IL DNR personnel changed the former anti-Kankakee Marsh Refuge, the former anti-Kankakee River ecosystem preservation that was so prevalent until this time?"

I certainly hope so. If Gov. Blagojevich and the IL-DNR Staff are offering to really work with (and hopefully for) the Refuge, there definitely is a light shining at the end of the very dark tunnel the past regime was in. It will take more than the number of conservation minded citizens who have already fought for this program to make the entire program a success. Please help with letters to Gov. Blagojevich in Springfield, IL. (Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, 207 Statehouse, Springfield,IL 62706. e-mail: governor@state.il.us)

editor's note - based on an editorial on the Sportsman's Letter program, WKAN Radio, (1320 AM), Kankakee, broadcast Saturday, March 8 2003. As always, the KRLog welcomes readers comments and opinions; please send them via e-mail to marty@bigeastern.com.

KRLog notes: 3.4.2003

Cardinal point - A harbinger of late winter - when the cardinal sings. - [Marty Lucas]

KRLog notes: 2.11.2003

The potential benefits of upland storage

There are many tributaries to the Kankakee where wetland restoration would greatly benefit the River by reducing pollutants (wetlands do a great job of reducing ammonia nitrogen pollution), attenuating flood flows and providing habitat for both fish (spawning pike) and wildlife.

A great example of what could be is the beautiful marsh that lies north Fish Lake off Highway 4 in LaPorte County (or did the last time I was in Indiana visiting my folks), just upstream of the railroad tracks. This marsh borders Fish Creek and is an example of the marshland that used to border all of the tributaries to the Kankakee.

There are many situations where these Kankakee tributaries run through narrow valleys with relatively high ground on each side. By focusing wetland restoration efforts in these locations, which are often at or near the top of the watershed, the problem of affecting neighboring property drainage is avoided. Restoration on these tributaries also maximizes the amount of flood reduction achieved for the dollar.

Freedom from worry about a neighbor's drainage situation in turn allows for a true restoration project to be implemented versus one in which levees and pumps are used to seasonally manipulate water levels (as was proposed in the Kankakee Refuge Plan). It allows the restored marshland to fully interact with the stream that passes through it (no berm or levee separates the two).

Take a look at some topo maps. I bet you could pick out many locations where marshes similar to those surrounding Fish Creek were was drained and could be restored.

KRLog notes: 2.11.2003

Finding the political will

The COE's suggestion that upland storage is one of the remedies within the Kankakee Basin is a no-brainer for me. Then again, I have no direct experience with drainage policy other than knowing it has robbed the state of Indiana of some of its more spectacular natural areas.

Current drainage policy is archaic, irresponsible, and destructive. It has caused all kinds of problems downstream that can only be solved upstream.

If I were farming 100 years ago, I probably would have done the same thing everybody was. I would have drained my land and said "to hell with anyone else, let them deal with it." Now, instead of having no one next door, there are people downstream, everywhere!

The chronic flooding and erosion that plague the Kankakee are the result of the draining of the marshlands and the channelization of the river. The water will not just go away, it has to be stored somewhere and to eliminate the scouring of the banks and levees, the rate has to be slowed down. There are no other cost effective options.

The basin is so flat, that in order to keep the main stem from flooding, water will have to be stored up on most of its tributaries. The options are numerous small storage sites or fewer larger sites.

Wetlands are important and provide many benefits. All the evidence to make this case is there for the taking. All that is missing is the political will to do it.

Start upstream to solve the problems of the Kankakee.

KRLog notes: 2.9.2003

Can we talk - upland storage?

Calling all KRLog readers! Let's start some dialogue about upland storage. What does it mean? What would it look like? Where would it be located? Can it solve the impasse on moving the Kankakee River watershed (esp. in Indiana) into the 21st century? If you've got a comment, please write e-mail.

editor's rant: 1.31.2003

Don't rule out upland storage

Upland storage of water in wetland areas (an approach under consideration by the ACOE) could reduce flooding and sedimentation, and provide needed wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.

special report: 1.29.2003

Army Corps feasibility study:
upland storage, ecosystem restoration

Preview of the upcoming Draft Report of ACOE re/ the Kankakee watershed.

KRLog Notes - 1.12.2002

- and Kankakee too?

If progress can come to neighboring watersheds, why not the Kankakee?

KRLog Notes - 1.4.2002

Jody Melton explains KRBC position on State Line Bridge

KRLog Notes - 12.31.2002

Jim Sweeney on the State Line Bridge