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March 2, 2004


SPRINGFIELD - Governor Rod Blagojevich today announced the awarding of a $50,000 grant to Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) that will pave the way for important water improvements in Jefferson County’s Big Muddy River Basin.  The grant funding will come from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) as a part of the Governor’s Opportunity Returns plan, his comprehensive, economic development package for the Southern region.
“The Southern region is home to tremendous beauty and pristine natural assets in its rivers, parks, and forests.  Improvement of local waterways is not only a quality of life issue, but one that strengthens tourism and the economic vitality of these communities as well.  By making these key improvements, we’re ensuring that the Big Muddy River Basin will continue to be an area that contributes to the richness and allure of this unique landscape in our state,” Governor Blagojevich said. 
Through a series of outreach and planning sessions with local stakeholders, SIUC will help develop a strategy to improve the water quality in the Rayse Creek watershed, a popular swimming destination that has recently come under scrutiny by the IEPA due to potential signs of pollution.
“After studying the creek, our biologists have determined that portions of Rayse Creek may not provide healthy swimming conditions as specified under the federal Clean Water Act.  Local stakeholders are often the best resource for identifying potential sources of pollution and responding to local water quality issues like these, and I am happy that we can contribute to getting these important efforts under way,” IEPA Director Renee Cipriano said.
SIUC will assist in developing integrated planning, including community workshops, watershed data evaluation and site specific Best Management Practices recommendations with the goal of reducing suspended sediment, nutrients and other pollutants to improve water quality while enhancing habitat and aesthetics.
Funding for the grant is administered by Illinois EPA and comes from the U.S. EPA under Section 319 of the federal Clean Water Act.  Total project cost is estimated at $83,000, with the university providing the remaining funding.
The Opportunity Returns regional economic development plan is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history.  Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – finding areas with common economic strengths and needs, and developing a plan with specific actions for each region.  This grassroots effort for the Southern region is a product of significant outreach over several months with business, civic and labor leaders, and elected officials.  The more than 40 specific projects that the Governor announced in November for the Southern region are designed to be flexible and effective.  This plan is tailored to deliver real results that local businesses will see, feel, and, hopefully, profit from.


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