Illinois River and other waterways key to summer fun

For Immediate Release

Contact: Wouter Hammink, 605-690-1357, wouter@environmentillinois.org

Chicago, IL-More than 32 million people each year visit waterways like Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, according to a new Summer Fun Index by Environment Illinois. The new fact sheet comes as summer draws to close, and as officials consider a new rule to restore protections for more than half of the state’s rivers and streams.

“We all know clean water means summer fun. There’s nothing quite like spending an afternoon on the shores of Lake Michigan, or paddling down the Mississippi River,” said Wouter Hammink, organizer with Environment Illinois. “Our Summer Fun Index shows how important it is to protect our waters.”

According to the index, boating and fishing are popular activities for visitors to Illinois waters, with more than 400,000 registered recreational boats and more than 700,000 people with fishing licenses.

“In addition to all the great recreational opportunities Lake Michigan provides, it also serves as our source of drinking water here in Chicago, and elsewhere, and is habitat to a diversity of species, most of which contribute to its status as a stable, healthy ecosystem,” said Dr. Christopher Peterson, Program Director with the Loyola University Institute of Sustainability.” We need to be vigilant to ensure governing bodies at all levels recognize that effective legislative regulation must be in place to prevent degradation of all types of aquatic systems.”

Despite their popularity, over 48,000 miles of Illinois’ rivers and streams are not guaranteed protection under the nation’s Clean Water Act, thanks to a loophole in the law secured by developers and other polluters nearly a decade ago.

In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to restore protections for the headwaters, streams, and wetlands left in limbo by the loophole. But agribusinesses, oil companies, and their champions in Congress are campaigning heavily against it. Next week the U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote on a bill, HR 5078, to block the rule.

EPA is taking public comments on the measure through the fall. Environment Illinois pointed to the stats on how much people use and enjoy Illinois waterways as further support for EPA’s proposed rule.

“Whether we enjoy them for fishing, boating, or swimming, we all have a stake in the health of Lake Michigan and the rest of our waterways,” said Hammink. “We should be doing everything we can to protect all of our rivers, lakes and streams.”