A portion of the Illinois River in unincorporated Grundy County known for wildlife, recreational boating and stunning views is in danger of losing its charm and could face environmental risks, according to homeowners who live in the area.
Illinois & Michigan Oil, LLC is in the process of permitting the installation of a barge terminal project on the south bank of the Illinois River, east of Seneca. The project would include a 600-foot wall, 20 small mooring pins and any applicable maintenance dredging.
The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers said it is in the process of reviewing the permit application.
Meanwhile, a group of residents are objecting to the proposal based upon a wide variety of grounds. They said the project could threaten the local ecology, increase the risk of flood damage downstream, and increase congestion on the river.
“One environmental spill could wreck the ecosystem in the river for decades,” said Doug Gladden, who owns property along the river.
Neighbors told NBC 5 the project would allow for up to 106 barges to be stationed along a 1.6 mile stretch of the river directly in front of their homes.
“I think people need to hear what’s going to happen,” said homeowner Rick Sims. “We need to know short-term, long-term what this Illinois Michigan Oil company is planning on doing.”
Derek Egan, Chief Operations Officer of Joliet-based Illinois & Michigan Oil, LLC, said the company has a strong respect for the environment, local economy, and any impacts the proposed fleet may have on the public.
“This is a rigorous permitting process whose focus ranges from safety of both recreational and commercial vessels to any potential environmental impacts,” Eagan said. “The fleet will not impact flooding, but rather provide safe harbor and decongestion during major flood events, adverse weather, and locked closures.”
Egan said the company is in the process of enrolling 499 acres of its property into the Illinois Foresty Development Act program in accordance with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
“Once approved, this plan will help sustain the property’s hardwood forests and wildlife habitats, as well as enhance the natural aesthetics of the area and promote healthy tree growth,” Egan said.
The neighbors have filed objections and requests for a public hearing to prevent the granting of a permit.
"Our objective with the Army Corps is to have a hearing on the various environmental issues," said Dave Bzdill, an attorney representing the residents.
A spokesperson for the Rock Island District of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers said regulatory specialists have gathered the public comments and submitted the comments to the applicant for their review and comment.
Specialists will then review the applicants’ responses to the submitted comments as part of the permit application process in order to evaluate the validity of the permit, which may take several months to review.