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lllinois River funding delayed

March 24, 2008 at 06:53 PM

PEORIA - Efforts to save the Illinois River are on hold - and Illinois may lose millions of federal dollars - because the state has held funds.

“It’s an outrage,” said state Rep. David Leitch, R-Peoria.

“The soil & water conservation districts are slowly being starved to death.”

Among several other duties, the county-based Soil & Water Conservation District works with farmers and landowners to keep soil out of the watershed. Hundreds of these projects have been halted this spring, even though they have already been planned, surveyed and designed.

“It’s not just a problem here,” Leitch said. “It’s a problem all over the state.”

Rich Nichols, executive director of the Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts, says about $275 million in federal funds are funneled through these districts for cost-sharing on the river-saving projects. Costs are usually split 60/40, with private owners paying the smaller portion. With the projects on hold, the federal money may be diverted to other states.

“Quite frankly, it may have some major impact on the river,” Nichols said. “We won’t lose the whole $275 million, but we may lose a substantial amount. Right now, with Illinois’ financial problems, any amount is a substantial amount.”

That is just one aspect of a multi-faceted problem. Originally, the state’s 98 soil & water conservation districts were slated for increased funding this year. Although they were budgeted for $7.556 million, the districts have only received about $1.667 million. That’s 22 percent of the funds for a fiscal year that is almost 75 percent complete.

“We are getting to the end of March. We have received about $14,000,” said Jannifer Powelson, resource conservationist for the Stark County Soil & Water Conservation District. “We were supposed to receive $83,000.”

Although the districts raise some of their own funds - selling items such as trees, fish and native plants - that’s a huge hit to that district’s $100,000 budget. With reserve funds gone, it will cut workers to 20 hours a week on April 14.

“Everybody’s stretched to the limit,” Powelson said. “We’ve been cutting our budget to the bone for years.”

Nichols said Stark County is one of the worst hit, but Scott County is in a similar position. The Lawrence County district has already announced it will close May 30.

“We’re pretty much done,” Nichols said.

According to Nichols, this affects about 250 employees statewide. They continue to ask state budget officials what is going on, but it has been months without a response.

Katie Ridgeway, spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, sent an e-mail with a one-paragraph answer.

“The General Assembly passed a budget based on inflated revenue estimates,” it says. “As a result, there isn’t enough revenue coming in to cover all the spending lawmakers approved in their FY ‘08 budget. We have slowed spending by holding head count and state debt below the appropriated levels, but will also have to hold spending on most grants until the General Assembly approves additional revenue to cover the cost.”

She did not respond to further questions about the meaning for the river or the potential loss of federal funds.

“They say they’re for the environment, and then they do things like this,” Leitch said. “It’s just a disgrace. The dysfunction of the state is now visited on the soil & conservation districts and the Illinois River and Wildlife Prairie Park and the rest of the system. . . . It’s contemptible what’s going on in this state - or not going on.”

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Just another ploy by the Blagojerk administation to drive Illinois into the ground.  Not enough money to support the soil and water districts but we have enough money to build a 40 million dollar lecture hall at NIU.  One that the students don’t really want or how about a heated driveway at the Governor’s mansion at a cost of $750,000 and   Don’t forget he doesn’t even live at the joint.  What an #$#$&*&*!!!!  All the Illinois river is to this man is somewhere for Chicago’s crap to flow down to all us low lifes that live in South Illinois.  Typical Blagoblow reply by one of his partners in crime.  I can’t wait till the Feds slap the cuffs on this guy and send him up the river.  Thats if there is one by the time he is done.  For now, enjoy the river for someday it may be just the Illinois creek/mudhole.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/24 at 09:16 PM

Shed, isn’t that where all ex Ill. govener’s go.?What ashame, It will be hard to send him up the river when there ain’t going to be enough water in the river to float a turd…...

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/25 at 10:16 AM

yes I have seen a flying turd in the illinois river I think it was a flying asian carp turd!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/25 at 08:34 PM

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