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Outdoors: Emiquon Preserve plan an ill-conceived boondoggle

Bob Maciulis

Bob Maciulis

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Updated: June 7, 2014 5:55PM



If you have caught a fish in Illinois, thank Mike Conlin.

Without him, Illinoisans would do what they did for decades — head north, south, east or west to fish.

Most of our rivers were struggling, many severely polluted. There were no management programs for what impoundments there were.

In fact, the huge reservoirs like Lake Shelbyville, Kinkaid, Braidwood, LaSalle and Heidecke had not been built.

From the slim pickings, Mike Conlin, who eventually was the Illinois Department of Natural Resources fisheries chief (1971-2009), with the help of Brent Manning, built a fisheries department that was so good, so successful, with staff and management strategies that worked so well, that they drew fisheries experts from throughout the country, even from legendary Canadian destinations like Ontario.

Most of all, Illinois became a destination for anglers from throughout the Midwest.

Manning eventually retired with the longest reign as director in Illinois history.

The two legendary fisheries guys have teamed up again. This time, to fight with a pair of unlikely adversaries.

In his own words, Conlin describes an immanent environmental disaster: The Nature Conservancy and the Army Corps of Engineers have lined up their political forces in an attempt to “railroad” through their plans to reconnect the Emiquon Preserve to the Illinois River.

Despite the fact that many millions of dollars of taxpayer money are slated to pay for the majority of the project, and many well known and respected biologists have raised serious concerns with the reconnection proposal, the
Nature Conservancy and the Corps of Engineers plan to
continue their journey, without holding any public meetings, toward what undoubtedly will someday become a nasty “ecological train wreck.”

What are the “common sense facts” relative to the Emiquon proposal? Try some of these on for size:

Currently, there are common carp in Emiquon but they are being held in check by a very strong native fish population.

Providing fish in the Illinois River access to Emiquon most certainly will result in a buildup of the common carp population and eventually a carp explosion that will result in degradation and destruction of the present lush wetland and aquatic plant community.

Not too worry, says the Conservancy, if common carp and Asian carp become a problem because of the reconnection with the Illinois River, we will just drain the lake and get rid of them.

Of course, that means all fish life will perish and building a lake fishery will have to start all over again.

Again, the Conservancy to the rescue: It says it merely will let in water (and fish) from the Illinois River and flood Emiquon to a depth of 10 feet, thereby not only re-establishing a fish population (of which carp will be the dominant species, unfortunately) but will control any unwanted woody vegetation starting to establish itself — all for the purpose of a Conservancy grand “restoration experiment,” bankrolled with taxpayer money.

It really borders on being criminal to jeopardize and disrupt one of the few significant wetlands existing in the Illinois Valley.

The Nature Conservancy’s Emiquon choo choo needs to be derailed, lest the taxpayers not only get fleeced out of millions of dollars of their tax money but also lose a preciously wonderful, existing wetland heaven for fish, fowl, and man.

Contact Sen. Richard Durbin (email: durbin.senate.gov) and Sen. Mark Kirk (e-mail: kirk.senate.gov) today and ask that they put the brakes on the Nature Conservancy and the Corps of Engineers’ plan to reconnect the Illinois River to the Emiquon Preserve.



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