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August 14, 2000

Ryan Announces Restoration of Wetlands Through Illinois FIRST

MORRIS -- Governor George H. Ryan today announced the state acquired nearly 850 acres of land to restore more than 200 acres of quality wetlands along the south bank of the Illinois River near Morris.

The acquisition is a result of a cooperative effort between the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

"This is an extremely important acquisition because we should be able to enhance or restore more than 200 acres of quality wetlands as a result of this purchase," Gov. Ryan said. "It's also a significant step in the relationship between IDOT and IDNR because they worked together to identify the area. They looked at the habitat, its current and potential benefits, and decided up-front who was responsible for managing the project."

IDOT intends to use the newly acquired land for a wetland mitigation bank along the Illinois River. Consistent with their land management practices, IDNR has agreed to cooperate in this effort and to manage the mitigation project.

Ultimately, this project will provide quality wetlands to compensate for other wetlands that are adversely impacted by IDOT highway projects, such as the replacement of the Illinois Route 47 bridge in Morris, as well as other projects where on-site wetland mitigation is not feasible.

It is this process of compensation -- developing new wetlands in advance to replace wetlands impacted in the future -- that creates a mitigation bank from which IDOT is debited for its adverse impacts.

IDOT purchased two parcels of land along the south bank of the Illinois River. One parcel, a farm owned by the Barr family, consists of almost 509 acres. The other parcel is a farm purchased from its trustee -- First Midwest Trust Company -- that includes more than 340 acres.

"Some wetland already exists on this land. However, we have in this land not only the potential to enhance what is already there, but the opportunity to restore additional wetlands," IDNR Director Brent Manning said.

Before a parcel of land can be used for wetland mitigation, IDOT must receive approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection agency and IDNR. Part of the approval process requires environmental field studies, conducted by IDOT through the Illinois Natural History Survey and the Illinois State Geological Survey, that show the project and parcel of land meet the requirements for wetland mitigation. Once that approval is granted, the mitigation project will begin.

"Since IDNR helped us identify this site specifically for wetland mitigation, we are confident we will receive approval from the various federal agencies involved," IDOT Deputy Secretary Rob Newbold said. "The opportunity to develop this kind of acreage is important because, although we do everything we can to minimize the adverse effects, highway development does at times create unavoidable impacts to wetlands."

Reconstruction of the Morris Bridge carrying Illinois 47 across the Illinois River will impact only five or six acres of wetlands, but will require almost 30 acres of mitigation. The bridge project is included in IDOT's current five-year program with construction of the southbound structure scheduled to start in the spring of 2001.

Because the mitigation project will result in the restoration of hydrology, allowing water to come on to the site naturally and to remain standing, as well as the cultivation of new wetland plants, there are important habitat benefits to be gained.

"This is a win-win situation for everyone. This really is a significant tract of land with wonderful environmental opportunities," Manning said. "If this project is successful, we hope to work with IDOT on similar projects throughout the state."


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