Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Power of Paddlers

Over the past months, the Illinois DNR and the state Legislature have been reviewing proposed legislation that would prohibit one from being able to access the portages around low-head dams in the state, establishing a 350' exclusion zone.

In a clear victory for the Paddling Community. The Legislature's JCAR Committee, meeting in Springfield, July 15 voted eleven in favor (with one member voting present) to send The Dam Safety Rule# 3703 back to the DNR to be completely rewritten. A phone call and letter writing campaign that began in the Second Edition of the Illinois Paddling Council newsletter on March 16 with the words

"Either we paddlers show that we are a force to be dealt with and mount an effective campaign against this legislation, or we allow the politicians to write us off, and bring about the permanent loss of something we treasure."

has now shown that the Paddling Community in Illinois has truly come of age, and is a force for change in our state.

(We are indebted to Eric Sprenne for his willingness to drive to Springfield to attend this meeting and for his always reliable research, and writing throughout this campaign)
During the discussion prior to the vote virtually all of the concerns that we have been raising about 3703 were cited by JCAR members.

We have been hearing for some time that Legislators were receiving very large numbers of calls and letters, but we didn't know what effect this was having until JCAR sent 3703 back to the DNR with questions two weeks ago. DNR chose not to modify the rule and today's action by JCAR was the result.

The 350' exclusion zones, are not likely to again see the light of day, and the portages are likely to remain open. This is a clear reprieve for paddlers on the Fox, Rock, Kankakee, DesPlaines, and Sangamon rivers.

We must continue to remain vigilant because the rule will be rewritten. The Paddling Council will be formally offering to work with the DNR as they rewrite #3703. We are hopeful that a new rule that might actually make dams more safe can be written. We will continue to monitor progress closely and keep you informed.

Our thanks to the other members of the Protest Steering Committee Sigrid Pilgrim and Gary Mechanic, and most of all, we want to thank all of you who wrote, emailed, called, and signed the petition. You have shown that aroused citizens in Illinois can still make a difference.

Tom Lindblade
Editor - The Illinois Paddler
President Illinois Paddling Council

This blog was taken and edited from the Illinois Paddling Council July 15, 2009 "Illinois Paddler" Newsletter. Congratulations to the IPC for their efforts in maintaining access to the rivers in the state of Illinois.

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