Petition drive seeks to create Thorn Creek watershed district
Saying that the future of Thorn Creek and its surrounding watershed is at stake, a Chicago Heights man has launched a petition drive aimed at creating a conservation district — a legal governing and taxing district — to resolve issues within the watershed.
If the petition drive is successful, a referendum question on the Nov. 4 ballot would ask voters to approve the creation of the Thorn Creek Watershed Conservation District.
“We have to get everyone in the watershed to support one another. We have to protect the whole watershed,” said local environmental activist Charles Dieringer, who is spearheading the effort.
The question also would ask voters if the conservation district should have the authority to levy an annual tax at a maximum rate of .083 percent — or less than $10 per year for a household, according to Dieringer.
“It would improve your home value to live in a place that cares about the environment,” he said.
His goal is to collect 2,500 signatures from landowners within the 107-square-mile watershed, which includes Chicago Heights, Flossmoor, Ford Heights, Glenwood, Homewood, Lansing, Lynwood, Matteson, Olympia Fields, Park Forest, Richton Park, Sauk Village, South Chicago Heights, South Holland, Steger, Thornton, University Park, the townships of Crete, Bloom, Bremen, Monee, Rich and Thornton, plus the Lincoln-Lansing Drainage District and Munster, Ind.
The primary objective of the district would be to comply with the Clean Water Act, clean up Thorn Creek, prevent erosion, and maintain the Lincoln-Lansing Drainage District, Dieringer said.
His immediate concerns are educating the public about the stewardship and sustainability of the watershed and preventing the Army Corps of Engineers from removing a dam at 26th Street in Chicago Heights, an action he said would “destroy the stream.”
Over the years, monitoring and maintaining Thorn Creek has largely been a volunteer effort. But now Dieringer believes more is needed.
“There are so many issues in the watershed. We need a legal group to fight these issues,” he said.
If voters agree to create a Thorn Creek Conservation District, each community would appoint a trustee to serve on its board, but they would have to complete an online course in watershed science, have knowledge of in-stream maintenance machines, and be familiar with stream-restoration design and the Illinois Resource Management Mapping Tool, Dieringer said.
Those interested in the petition drive should email email@example.com, he said.