October 7, 2014

Prairie Rivers Network to Honor River Advocates at Annual Dinner

Prairie Rivers Network will honor Kevin Green, Pete Leki, and Joy Schmoll for their work in protecting and promoting the health of Illinois rivers and wildlife at its Annual Dinner on October 10. The event will be held at the I Hotel and Conference Center, 1900 S First Street in Champaign IL.


Kevin Green

Vermilion County Board member Kevin Green will receive the Outstanding Public Servant award for his work protecting the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River. Mr. Green is a farmer from rural Oakwood that serves on the Vermilion County Board as well as the boards for the Vermilion County Conservation District Foundation and the Vermilion County Soil and Water Conservation District. Green supported the call for responsible closure of Dynegy’s leaking coal ash dumps along the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River by bringing the issue before a variety of local leaders. Each of these boards unanimously passed resolutions pushing the Illinois EPA and political representatives to take action on these deteriorating pits along the state’s only National Scenic River.


Pete Leki

Pete Leki of Chicago, IL will be presented the River Steward award. Leki has been a tireless champion for the oft neglected and abused Chicago River. Leki is the ecology teacher at Waters School in Chicago, co-steward of Sauganash nature restoration site along the Chicago River, and lead organizer of the Riverbank Neighbors Community group. Prairie Rivers Network is honoring Mr. Leki for his many years of work and inspiration, resulting in generations of Waters School students and families knowing and loving the Chicago River, as well as his leadership in transforming both the North Branch of the Chicago River, as well as the community that thrives along its banks.


Design by Joy Schmoll

Artist and graphic designer Joy Schmoll of Evanston, IL will receive Prairie Rivers Network’s Volunteer of the Year award for the donation of her time and work, including designs of logos, flyers, and t-shirts. For more information on the Annual Dinner, go to www.prairierivers.org/dinner

September 22, 2014

Prairie Rivers Network Annual Dinner

2014 Annual Dinner

Join river enthusiasts and Prairie Rivers Network’s staff and board members for good conversation, food, and fun at our Annual Dinner as we celebrate our rivers and streams.

Register for dinner here!Where: I Hotel and Conference Center, 1900 S. First Street, Champaign, IL 61820

When: Friday, October 10, 2014

Reception – 6:00 pm (music by Don’t Ask; silent auction)

Dinner – 7:30 pm

After-party at Houlihan’s

Price: $50 per person or $400 for a table of 10

Silent Auction: Back by popular demand, we will have great prizes to bid on…

Bike from Neutral Cycle • Patagonia fleece vests and hats • Patagonia backpacks • Prairie Fruits Farm Dinner • Canoe • Stop the Dam poster from John Marlin • Framed photography by Chris Main • Wood sculpture by Rick Larimore • Pottery by Bev Rauchfuss • Pampered Chef goodies from Nancy Pagaduan • Columbia Street Roastery coffee  • Aveda  • Destihl • Pizza M • Glider Ride by Illini Glider Club • Windy City Wild book  from Jason Lindsey • Champaign Surplus merchandise

Keynote Speaker: Mary Christina Wood

Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Mary Christina Wood, a frequent and highly sought speaker on our environmental challenges and how we might deal with them. She has received national and international attention in recent years for her pointed criticisms of business-as-usual permit-granting by environmental protection agencies.

She is best known today for working with conservation interests across the country spearheading litigation—brought on behalf of children and teens, representing future generations—challenging the failures of public bodies to take responsible action under the Public Trust Doctrine. It has long been accepted in the United States and other countries that government holds waterways, beaches, and wildlife in trust for present and future generations. By bringing young people into the arena, Wood and her colleagues have helped shift attention to the future and brought real, compelling human faces to the issues. More than 50 lawsuits have been initiated across the nation, highlighting specifically the threats from climate change, drawing vast publicity and putting pressure on slow-moving governments and other actors.

RSVP by October 1st: Registration required. Click here to register now!

You may also download our Annual Dinner Response Card and mail it with your payment to Prairie Rivers Network, 1902 Fox Drive, Suite G, Champaign, IL 61820.

Dinner Choices:

  1. Sustainable Wild Alaskan Herb Crusted Coho Salmon with a sage cream sauce
  2. Locally Raised Chicken Chasseur with tarragon, mushrooms, tomato, garlic & white wine
  3. Eggplant Involtini with vegetable couscous and light tomato sauce

Dress Requirement? No. There is no dress requirement, however, most attendees dress in business or evening informal.

Thank you business sponsors

PLATINUM $5,000+

McKenzie Wagner

GOLD $1,000+

Champaign Surplus Common Ground Food Co-op
Marco Technical Documentation  

Fox Development Corporation

Patagonia Robeson Benefit Fund Logo

UpClose Marketing and Printing

Silver $500

Blue Moon Farm Champaign Telephone Company
Hartke Engineering and Surveying National Wildlife Foundation


Anderson Farms Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery
Neutral Cycle Russ Rybicki, Progressive Asset Management


Prairie Rivers Network invites you to support clean water and healthy rivers by becoming a business member of Prairie Rivers Network. Business sponsors can be recognized at our Annual Dinner and Illinois Marathon – Run for Your Rivers – charity running team.

For more information, please view our Business Sponsor Form, or contact Vickie Nudelman s at 217.344.2371 or vnudelman [at] prairierivers.org.

September 20, 2014

LTE: Water rules not a threat to farming

Published in the News-Gazette on September 19, 2014:

There seems to be much confusion regarding the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed rules regarding the Clean Water Act. These rules generally referenced as Waters of the United States have been described as “the largest land grab in history” on rural radio and something akin to regulating every drop in the ditch out here in corn country.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the number of exemptions to agricultural industries and farmers has been extended, and the rules just don’t burden property rights.

While our Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, speculates on the Illinois Farm Bureau website: “There’s a trust gap between EPA and the agricultural community,” in truth EPA and the Corps are doing a successful science-based job at protecting the waters our children and grandchildren drink.

I suggest the trust gap is between Davis and the public. By playing election-year politics with the most precious commodity in the biosphere, he’s attempting to coddle the Big Ag support he needs to win re-election.

SCOTT DOSSETT (Prairie Rivers Network member)


PDF version of the News-Gazette LTE.


September 10, 2014

Comment Now on Bulldog Mine Permit

After years of attempting to obtain a coal mining permit, Sunrise Coal’s application for the Bulldog Mine has been deemed “complete” by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

Save Salt Fork poster image 2A “complete” permit does not mean that the permit has been issued; rather, IDNR has determined that the permit contains “information addressing each application requirement” and “all information necessary to initiate processing and public review.” The boxes have been checked and the blanks have been filled in – but as we all know, just because a student answers all the questions on a test does not mean the student receives an “A.”

More than 40 Champaign and Vermilion County residents, farmers, and business-owners gathered with Stand Up to Coal in Homer, IL last week to discuss what a “complete” permit means and how they can get involved in the public process.

Until Friday September 19th, those with an interest which may be adversely affected by the mine have an opportunity to comment on the permit and to request an “informal conference” – a public meeting where comments and objections to the permit can be discussed with IDNR.

An interest which may be adversely affected could include:

  • The use of prime farmland, which could be taken out of production forever. The coal mining process damages tile drains and eventually causes subsidence (sinking of the land) lowering productivity of the rich soil in this region.
  • Air free of coal dust, which would blow off the coal piles southeast of Homer at the processing facility and off trucks and railcars during transit, threatening public health. Coal dust is known to cause respiratory problems and contains heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, selenium, and chromium.
  • Access to clean drinking water supplies, which would be threatened by coal slurry containing heavy metals and chemicals used during the washing process. Slurry in pits up to one square mile and 100 feet high could seep into ground water and potentially breach retaining walls.
  • Use of local roadways, which would be damaged by transportation of heavy mining equipment as well as the constant use of coal trucks. This not only disturbs the homes of those nearby, but places the burden of repair on local taxpayers.
  • Aesthetic and recreational interests in the proposed mine area and the watershed of the Olive Branch and Salt Fork River, where wastewater will be discharged. Pollution could interfere with integrity of these treasured places.

To submit a comment , visit the Stand Up to Coal website here and use the uploaded sample letter.

The permit application has also been uploaded onto the Stand Up to Coal website here. It is a large document, but we would encourage anyone with an interest in protecting the land and water of Champaign and Vermilion Counties to take a look. Everyone brings their own local knowledge and a different perspective.

If you have any questions about the permit process or would like to get more involved, contact Tyler Rotche at 217.344.2371×206 or trotche@prairierivers.org


In the News:

30 Days To Stop A Coal Mine, WICD-15 (September 3, 2014)

Many attend mine meeting, WCIA-3 (September 3, 2014)

Coal mine opponents at Homer hope to stop permit, State Journal-Register (September 4, 2014)

Opponents of coal mine gather tonight in Homer, News-Gazette (September 3, 2014)


August 25, 2014

Video: Potential Coal Ash Spill on Illinois’ only National Scenic River?

The Dynegy Vermilion coal-fired power plant closed in 2011, leaving behind three large ash pits containing millions of gallons of coal combustion waste laced with toxic heavy metals and carcinogens, the result of years of burning coal. All three pits are located in the floodplain; two of the pits are unlined and actively leaching into underlying groundwater.

While state and federal agencies weigh new rules and regulations for the closure of coal ash ponds, Vermilion County residents and local experts raise their concerns about the possibility of a disaster similar to those that occurred in Tennessee and North Carolina, where coal ash pits burst, sending tons of toxic sludge downstream.

Watch the new video from Eco-Justice Collaborative:

Waiting for Disaster – Coal Ash on the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River from Eco-Justice Collaborative on Vimeo.


Sign this petition to urge local, state and regional decision makers to support complete closure and cleanup of these ash pits to preserve the health of the Middle Fork River and the communities that depend on it for future generations.

August 8, 2014

From Toledo to the Gulf, Inaction Leaves Water Polluted

Algae 1

Photo: Ohio Wetlands Association

Just days after half a million Toledo residents were advised their water was too toxic to drink or bathe in (New York Times story), scientists released the annual measurement of the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, and the findings are grim (CNN Dead Zone story).

This year’s Dead Zone is estimated at 5,000 square miles—an area as big as the state of Connecticut, and three times larger than the 2015 goal established by a task force created to shrink the Dead Zone.

The crisis affecting water in Toledo, the Gulf of Mexico, and across the nation is the same: nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from big farms and sewage treatment plants.

Fox River. Photo: Northern Illinois Paddlers

Fox River. Photo: Northern Illinois Paddlers

In lakes and rivers, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution fuels the growth of stinking mats of algae that foul our waterways and beaches, and deprive the water of oxygen needed to support life. Algae can also contain toxins like the microcystin that poisoned Toledo’s drinking water and other toxins that have killed fish, livestock and pets.

Voluntary initiatives to tackle this national problem have failed. The failure of states and the feds to regulate this pollution has left all of us at risk. Prairie Rivers Network and our partners in the Mississippi River Collaborative petitioned US EPA for pollution limits in 2008, and then sued the agency in 2012 when it failed to address the problem. But even an EPA fix would not be enough.

Photo: American Canoe Association

Photo: American Canoe Association

Much of the increase in nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in recent years is coming from big farms that, thus far, have escaped regulation.

The Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations have used money and lobbying power to ensure that the pollution from agriculture is exempt from many of the laws that protect our water. Yet Illinois could act to hold polluting farms accountable.  It’s time to stop asking politely for polluters to do the right thing. We need rules that require everyone to keep pollution out of our water.