Students Explore Careers in Water on World Water Day

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Yesterday, the Sierra Club’s Chicago Water Team invited high school students to celebrate the UN-recognized World WaterDay and learn about opportunities to work in the water sector. Students met representatives from six different water-
related agencies, companies and organizations who shared information about the job, internship and training opportunities they provide to young adults.

The global celebration of this year’s World Water Day and its theme of “Water and Jobs” highlight the power that water and jobs have to transform people’s lives and the fact that nearly all jobs are related to water and those that ensure its safe delivery.

Guy Ryder, the ILO Director-General and Chair of UN-Water, says in this video message: “There is no life without water. The fact that access to water underpins all of our efforts to achieve sustainable development is clear. What is not so often said, is that the availability and sustainable management of water has a clear and direct link with the creation of quality jobs…Water can contribute to a greener economy and to sustainable development. But for this to happen, we need more workers qualified to realize the potential of new green technologies.”

Yesterday’s event gave Chicago high schoolers a firsthand look at the jobs they could have in the water field, and the path to obtaining the qualifications needed for these important positions. Participating groups included the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, the Water Quality Association, and several private companies offering water filtration, plumbing and wetlands consulting services.

Jack Darin speaks to the crowd, Cindy Skrukrud demonstrates water quality testing and Jill Ryan shares information about the Water Quality Association with students.

 

“World Water Day is a great opportunity for UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, employers, trade unions and citizens to come together to make a call for better water and better jobs,” says Ryder.

All of the participating groups play a role in protecting water quality, whether its by ensuring safe and clean delivery of drinking water, treating wastewater and removing pollutants, or preserving natural ecosystems that filter and recharge water supplies. Bob Reiter, Secretary-Treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor also spoke about apprenticeship programs run by several building trade unions that can prepare young people for good jobs in water infrastructure and technologies.

Water resources are essential to the functioning of every aspect of society. As climate change affects our nation’s water supplies, and our population continues to grow and shift, it is increasingly important to build a sustainable water future. To reduce the impact of water stresses on communities, we must develop and implement sustainable, long-term water management strategies. We need skilled, highly qualified workers to develop these strategies and manage our water resources in a way that protects the environment and ensures reliable delivery of clean water to everyone. Introducing students to opportunities to get involved in this important work can help lead them on the path towards a job in water.

A big thank you to our Chicago Water Team volunteers, the participating groups, and the interested students for joining us on World Water Day to explore jobs in water.

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Jill Ryan of the Water Quality Association and Vince Mosca of Hey and Associates, Inc. participate in the jobs fair. 

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From left to right: Krista Grimm, Katrina Phillips, Kady McFadden, Marty Durkan, Bob Reiter, Jack Darin, Kyra Woods and David Martin. 

Shawnee Parkway — New Name for a Decades-old Proposal in far Southern Illinois

Sierra Club is opposed to the Shawnee Parkway, a proposed multi-lane, high-speed highway to facilitate the trucking industry through a portion of southernmost Illinois. The negative impacts to the environment far outweigh any perceived advantages.

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Shawnee Parkway Study Area MapThe Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has invited the public to review and comment on the draft Purpose and Need Statement for the Shawnee Parkway Study. The study is being conducted to evaluate the need for a new east/west transportation “improvement” from the intersection of Illinois Route 3/146 and Interstate 57 in Alexander, Pulaski and Union Counties. The 350-square-mile study area includes several important natural resource areas that provide important habitat for federally listed species and migratory birds including migratory waterbirds, neotropical migrants and various raptors.

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Indiana bat. USFWS photo.

Nationally recognized Important Bird Areas include Horseshoe Lake State and Fish Wildlife Area, the Thebes-area Mississippi Kite Complex, and Union County State Fish and Wildlife Area. Cypress Creek NWR is globally recognized as an Important Bird area and the Cache River and Cypress Creek Wetlands Area RAMSAR site is located within the study area.

Illinois Natural Inventory sites within the study area include Brown Barrens’ Nature Preserve, Berryville Shale Glade Nature Preserve, and McClure Shale Nature Preserve. Additionally, the federally endangered Indiana bat has been documented throughout southernmost Illinois, with known hibernacula within the study area.

800px-Mississippi_KiteThe biologically rich and diverse environment and natural beauty of the entire study area makes it an important place for high-quality outdoor recreation experiences such as hunting, fishing, bird watching, canoeing, hiking, camping, nature photography and much more. Impacts from a multi-lane, high-speed, heavy trafficked highway on outdoor recreation enjoyment include noise and air pollution, intrusions on rural viewsheds, and damage to the ecosystem recreationists have come to visit.

h_truckMajor highways cause damaging environmental fragmentation to the landscape. Studies have shown that reduced landscape connectivity and limited movements due to highways, particularly those with high speed and high traffic volumes, result in higher wildlife mortality, lower reproduction rates, ultimately smaller populations and overall lower population viability. The fragmentation effect of roads forms a barrier to movement where animals become reluctant to move across roads to access mates or preferred habitats for food and cover. The degree of aversion to roads can generally be attributed to features associated with the road, e.g., traffic volume, road width or major habitat alterations caused by the road.  High-volume and high-speed roads tend to be the greatest barriers and most effective in disrupting animal movements and population interchange.

Cape Girardeau, Missouri and the trucking industry would be the primary benefactors of a high-speed truck transit route through Illinois, while southern Illinois has nothing to gain and everything to lose. The region would not only suffer from the negative environmental impacts brought by a multi-lane highway, Illinois would forever be responsible for the cost of its maintenance. We have difficulty keeping the two interstate highways already running through the study area in good repair—it would be fiscally irresponsible to add a third such highway.

Southern Illinois would be better served by IDOT if existing roads and bridges in the study area were adequately maintained. Additionally, enhancing existing recreation and tourism opportunities would create construction jobs while maintaining the integrity of the fragile environment. We would like to see projects such as expanding the Tunnel Hill Trail into a web of interconnected bicycle trails and lanes, and hiking trails throughout the region; additional campgrounds and compatible lodging; and full staffing and educational programming at the Cache Wetlands Center.

Comments can be sent before March 15, 2016 to:

Jeffrey Keirn
Illinois Department of Transportation
Division of Highways
Region 5, District 9
PO Box 100
Carbondale, Illinois 62903-0100

Background

The Shawnee Parkway proposal is the latest in a long line of proposals going back decades for running a major highway through the heart of southernmost Illinois. The three most recent proposals began in the early 2000s with a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet proposal to continue Interstate 66 from Paducah, Kentucky through Illinois to connect to Interstate 55 at Cape Girardeau, Missouri. That proposal died when Kentucky’s Purpose and Need Study showed no economic feasibility to build the highway.

In 2012 Cape Girardeau initiated a $3.6 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation with a 20 percent match from IDOT (thanks, Cape Girardeau!) generating a total of $4.5 million to conduct a new feasibility study. This proposal was given a new name, 66 Corridor, but was otherwise basically identical. A Community Advisory Group (CAG) was formed and a Purpose and Need Study was developed. In early 2015 payments to the outside firm conducting the “study” were halted and by July the project was cancelled.

In November 2016 IDOT announced the current, Shawnee Parkway, project. The main difference this time is the endpoints for the highway. Whereas the previous proposals called for the highway to go all the way to Kentucky, this particular proposal ends at Interstate 57 between Anna and Cairo. Since the current study area was derived from the 66 Corridor Project we are concerned about potential future impacts including the development of 66 Corridor. Therefore, it’s imperative that the cumulative effects of potential future development be included in the Environmental Impact Statement.

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Bobcat Rules Open for Public Comment

Bobcat by Valerie aka ucumari Flickr attreq noncomm noder resizedThe Illinois Department of Natural Resources has recently proposed changes to two sections of the Illinois Administrative Code that will allow for hunting and trapping of bobcats in southern and western Illinois. These rules are a result of the statute that passed last year.

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Bobcats were listed as a threatened species in Illinois from 1977 to 1999. When the bobcat was removed from the list there was no follow up management, recovery or sustainability plan written or implemented. 

IDNR’s current statewide population estimate of 3,000 to 5,000 bobcats is derived from non-scientific, anecdotal evidence supplied by hunters during deer hunting season.

The IDNR’s proposed rules will allow a person to trap or hunt bobcats during the proposed hunting season. The season limits one bobcat per person, but the proposed rules allow the IDNR to use its discretion in determining the number of permits that will be issued.

The IDNR does not have a management or sustainability plan for bobcats and is currently working off of a geographically limited and outdated study regarding bobcat populations, habitat, and overall viability of harvest. There is tremendous concern that this proposal does not take into account ecological science for best practices for bobcat protection throughout the state.

The IDNR has done little to determine the current status of bobcats in the state and less to determine the true sustainability of allowing this important and recently threatened species to be hunted statewide. Though species can be delisted from the threatened and endangered species list upon reaching a certain level of recovery, instituting regulations allowing harvest before the species has reconstituted its available habitat range is premature and likely to reverse any progress bobcats have made.

Finally, the Illinois Wildlife Code requires that the harvest of bobcats in the state shall be non-detrimental. This requires that biological and management information demonstrate that harvesting bobcats is sustainable and that the removal of bobcats from the wild would not contribute to the over-utilization of the species, would pose no net harm to the status of the species, would not lead to long-term declines that would affect the viability of the population, and would not lead to significant habitat range loss or restriction. The IDNR has not demonstrated ability to meet any of these requirements.

Without additional science to show that hunting and trapping bobcats can be non-detrimental, these proposed rules should NOT be supported. This species needs to remain protected to prevent it from being added to the threatened list again.

If you’d like to take action, please sign our petition.

 

 

A quarter century of Illinois Wilderness symbolized on the new Shawnee National Forest quarter dollar coin

Shawnee-reverse_150x150Today, February 4th, the U.S. Mint is set to release the Shawnee National Forest quarter dollar coin–an event brimming with symbolism.

The coin features the iconic Camel Rock, a unique sandstone formation resembling its namesake that overlooks the Garden of the Gods Wilderness. The camel standing sentry over Garden of the Gods is symbolic of the Illinois Wilderness Act that has been protecting seven Wilderness Areas within the Shawnee National Forest for a quarter century.

In the 1980’s, Sierra Club worked with other wilderness advocates and newly elected Congressman Glenn Poshard in a campaign that saw victory in the passage by Congress of the 1990 Illinois Wilderness Act.  The act designated Garden of the Gods and six other high quality roadless areas in Shawnee National Forest as “Wilderness” – to be preserved as areas that provide solitude or primitive recreation that renews the spirit.  Camel Rock now symbolizes that inspirational quality of “wilderness” – areas largely untouched by man.

This new 25 cent coin and the 25th anniversary of Illinois Wilderness are reminders to all who value these wilderness areas that we must be vigilant and respectful in order to maintain these valuable and unique parts of our state – for our families and for our future.

The release of the Shawnee National Forest quarter dollar coin — the 31st coin of the U.S. Mint America the Beautiful Quarters® Program — will take place at Southeastern Illinois College Gymnasium, 3575 College Road, Harrisburg, Illinois, on February 4 at 10 a.m. To find out how to obtain the new coin visit the U.S. Mint website.

To find out more about Wilderness in the Shawnee National Forest visit: http://illinoiswilderness.org/

All In For Environmental Justice

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Sierra Club President Aaron Mair, the NAACP’s Cornell Brooks and Illinois member Dave Pittman in Peoria.

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we at the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter are taking a moment to pronounce our resolve to become a “deeper shade of green” in our work for the environment and for justice. We believe that every Illinois resident, regardless of gender, race, age, income, citizenship or where you live, should feel empowered to protect our shared environment—if you do too, we invite you to join us!

In 2015, the Sierra Club made huge strides by finalizing our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) plan. Our DEI plan is a strong commitment to broaden our Club and involve new voices in our membership and leadership. Here in Illinois, Sierra Club President Aaron Mair and the NAACP’s Cornell Brooks made history in Peoria with a joint keynote address about the intersectionality of our environmental and civil rights movements.

But this is just the first step in our journey together. Here in Illinois we can be a leader in building a more equitable movement and just society. That means we need your voice in the mix—are you in?

unnamedThis is going to be a big, hard, fight. It’s one few have been willing to take on. We’re going to make mistakes along the way but I just know we’re building something unlike anything that’s ever been built before.

No matter what your life circumstances—your gender, race, age, income, or where you live—we depend on the same air, water, and land. Whether we’re talking about local issues like coal ash pollution or the preservation of wild lands, or big picture issues like climate change, we know that we need everyone fighting for the environment.

“As Dr. King said, ‘we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

If you want to be a part of a diverse and strong environmental movement, sign up here to pledge your support to a deeper shade of green. We’ll get in touch with you to help find ways to get involved to expand the environmental movement in your community.

It’s never been more important that we engage everyone in our work to protect our planet and our communities. We hope you’ll join us!

New Report Shows Clean Water Means Jobs for Illinois

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Earlier today, we joined the Chicago Federation of Labor to appear before the Board of Commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to release a new report titled “A Flowing Economy: How Clean Water Infrastructure Investments Support Good Jobs in Chicago and in Illinois.” The report reveals some of the major benefits that investments in clean water generate for the economy and the environment, both locally and statewide, and highlights the need for additional clean water projects.

IMG_0402During the Board Meeting, the Commissioners passed a resolution recognizing the report and Commissioners Debra Shore and Barbara McGowan gave positive remarks. Bob Reiter, Secretary-Treasurer for the Chicago Federation of Labor, addressed the Board on the need to focus on upgrading and repairing the state’s clean water infrastructure to protect our water resources and expand the economic and environmental benefits they generate.

Frank Manzo, Policy Director at the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and co-author of the report, helped to highlight its key findings, including:

  • For every $1 billion invested in clean water infrastructure, approximately 11,200 jobs are created throughout the economy and there is an 8% one-year GDP Return on Investment.
  • In the Chicago area, clean water investments boost the regional economy by nearly $2 billion and lower the unemployment rate by 0.7 percentage points.
  • Employment in the water infrastructure sector increases an Illinois worker’s hourly earnings by 10.1 percent on average, providing a personal benefit that roughly equates to an additional year of schooling.

IMG_0397Our own Clean Water Program Director, Cindy Skrukrud, and Director Jack Darin spoke to the Board and the audience at the meeting about the need to address threats to our waters such as combined sewer overflows, aquatic invasive species and nutrient pollution. The report offers a snapshot of these challenges facing the Chicago Waterway System and waterways throughout Illinois and the opportunities to address them through future investments. Local, state and federal agencies have an opportunity to boost the economy and create good jobs for hardworking men and women while solving problems that threaten the health of our water resources.

One such problem is the threat of Asian Carp and other invasive species moving through the Chicago Area Waterways into Lake Michigan, and invasives moving from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River Basin. While there is broad agreement among stakeholders in both regions that a solution is urgently needed, there is additional information necessary to move decision makers to implement the best approach. We hope that local, state and federal agencies will work together to expediently fund and complete the necessary studies to move forward. We know that control measures must be constructed in the waterway system to prevent invasives from moving between the basins, and investing in this solution will bring benefits to the region’s economy and workforce while protecting some of our most valued bodies of water.

We’re excited to be a part of this initiative and stand ready with our partners to advocate for prioritized investments to achieve clean water and a thriving economy. We hope you’ll join us in being voices for the protection of our waterways and the future of our working class.

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 Read the press release:

 https://sierraclubillinois.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/2006/ 

 Read the full report:

http://illinoisepi.org/countrysidenonprofit/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ILEPI-PMCR-Research-Report-A-Flowing-Economy-FINAL.pdf

 Watch a video of the January 7th presentation: 

http://mwrd.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=253&view_id=1&embed=1&player_width=720&player_height=480&entrytime=869&stoptime=1865&auto_start=0

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 7, 2016

 

New Report: Clean Water Projects Employed 19,443 In 2014

Chicago Federation of Labor, Sierra Club Present Findings at MWRD Board Meeting

“A Flowing Economy” Details Clean Water Benefits to Workers & Regional Economy

Chicago, IL– The Chicago Federation of Labor and the Sierra Club today made a unique joint appearance before the Board of Commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to release a new report on the benefits that investments in clean water generate for the economy and the environment both locally and statewide, and to highlight upcoming opportunities for clean water projects.

“We are fortunate to have one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water right outside our front door, in Lake Michigan and all our Great Lakes,” said Jorge Ramirez, President of the Chicago Federation of Labor. “Thanks to an initial investment by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and the City of Chicago Department of Water Management in 2014, we have already begun to see the economic and environmental benefits of investing in clean water projects in the Chicago area, namely job creation and increased worker productivity thanks to improved regional health. We need to build on this success and focus on upgrading and repairing the state’s clean water infrastructure.”

“Protecting Lake Michigan and restoring our rivers are not only essential for public health but also significantly contributes to a healthy economy,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter.

The report, titled “A Flowing Economy: How Clean Water Infrastructure Investments Support Good Jobs in Chicago and in Illinois” finds that for every $1 billion invested in clean water infrastructure, approximately 6,200 direct jobs are created in construction or water and sewage facilities, and 11,200 total jobs are created throughout the economy. Additionally, every $1 billion investment brings an 8 percent one-year GDP return on investment. The report was prepared by Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) and the School of Labor and Employment Relations at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Investments in clean water benefit the whole economy by making businesses and households run more smoothly, with less frequent disruptions from leaks, contamination and other water infrastructure failures,” said Frank Manzo, Policy Director at ILEPI and an author of the report.

Leading the region in clean water investments are the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Greater Chicago and the City of Chicago’s Department of Water Management. In 2014 alone, these two entities created or saved a total of 19,400 jobs and reduced the regional unemployment rate by 0.73 percent.

“America’s economy runs on water,” said MWRD President Mariyana Spyropoulos. “Between the City of Chicago and the MWRD, hundreds of thousands of annual jobs will be supported and billions in economic output will be produced over the next decade. When we invest in water, we put people to work, support economic growth and build a stronger foundation for our nation.”

While investments in clean water have led to major improvements in water quality and efficient water management, there are outstanding needs for additional investments that will continue to bolster the economy and enrich our communities. The report offers a snapshot of the challenges facing the Chicago Waterway System and waterways throughout Illinois and the opportunities to address these challenges through future investments.

“We need our local leaders and agencies to continue investing in two things every city needs: clean water and good jobs. Fortunately, there are opportunities to achieve both through smart investments in the right projects,” said Dr. Cynthia Skrukrud, Clean Water Program Director for the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We need to address serious threats to our water resources, such as invasive species, combined sewer overflows and nutrient pollution, which will require new water infrastructure to be built by hardworking men and women. We stand ready to help local, state and federal agencies prioritize investments to achieve clean water and a thriving economy.”

The report and its key findings were presented at the MWRD Board Meeting earlier today, and the District Board approved a resolution supporting the report.

To read the report visit:

http://illinoisepi.org/countrysidenonprofit/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ILEPI-PMCR-Research-Report-A-Flowing-Economy-FINAL.pdf

 

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