Group concerned for Kish river purity

By Nina Gougis

Environment-friendly city planning was a major concern of the one environmental group that gave a presentation to the Sycamore City Council Tuesday.

The Kishwaukee River Ecosystem Partnership, KREP, is a group of local stakeholders dedicated to raising awareness on the importance of the Kishwaukee River and work to preserve its natural resources. The group met with the council to discuss Sycamore’s role in keeping the river clean.

The presentation was part of a cooperative effort with another environmental group, the McHenry County Defenders, to build awareness among local city officials on how they can help preserve natural resources.

Neill Sachs, McHenry County Defenders member, said the Kishwaukee River is currently one of the cleanest in Illinois, but runs the risk of increased pollution as population increases.

“Kishwaukee is a gem to the community and one of the most highly-valued rivers in the state,” Sachs said. “But it is well known that when the number of people in an area increases, the quality of streams often decreases.”

Nathan Hill, KREP watershed coordinator, said the primary concern of the group is the transition from farmland to developed land.

This change, Hill said, could increase the amount of nonporous elements like asphalt that could, in turn, increase the amount of runoff, including chemicals and oils, into nearby streams.

Hill also said that keeping the watershed clean is essential to the health of the river because it eventually drains into it. Since the watershed runs through Sycamore, the partnership urged city officials to use more environmentally-friendly ways to develop the city.

“We are not opposed to the fact that development is happening,” Hill said. “Rather, we’re opposed to the kinds of development.”

Hill urged the use of more porous pavement and the use of native landscaping instead of asphalt to decrease the amount of runoff into streams.

Mayor John Swedberg said most counties, including Sycamore, already have ordinances regulating the use of nonporous materials to decrease the amount of runoff.

Hill said although most counties do have such regulations, the major focus is to prevent flooding. He said more strict regulations would be needed to help preserve the river.

In addition, the city council unanimously passed an ordinance prohibiting parking along one side of three streets, including the north side of Page Street, the west sides of Donlin Court and Foxpointe Drive.

Eliminating parking on the streets will make the streets less crowded and will make it easier for emergency vehicles, especially fire trucks and ambulances, to pass through the streets more easily, Sycamore Police Chief Donald Thomas said.

Nevertheless, Thomas said all the residents he contacted who live in the area understand the ordinance is a “necessary safety precaution” and generally support the ordinance.