October 15, 2007

Citizens: Hunter Lake Not Sensible; Group Presents Waste-of-Money Argument at Forum


If Springfield residents evaluate the need for a second lake, examine other water-supply options and consider the costs, they will realize Hunter Lake is "an irresponsible waste of money," a local citizens group contends.

"Water demand has not accelerated at the rate the city expected it to. Secondly, conservation techniques have saved a considerable amount of water. Third, even if we do need additional water, Hunter Lake is the most expensive and most environmentally destructive alternative, so there are better, cheaper and less destructive alternatives to preserve Springfield's water forever," said Don Hanrahan, a local attorney whose group Citizens for Sensible Water Use has opposed construction of Hunter Lake.

The group sought to drive these points home during an analysis of the issue Monday night featuring presentations by Hanrahan, as well as Dr. Bruce Semans, a clinical professor at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, and Clark Bullard, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign who specializes in hydraulics.

About 40 people attended the get-together at Lincoln Library.

Hunter Lake has been discussed for decades as a way to ensure Springfield's water supply in the event of a severe, 100-year drought.

If built, a dam would be constructed on Horse Creek, a tributary to the South Fork, thus flooding Horse and Brush creeks to create a two-pronged body of water that would stretch from southeast of Lake Springfield to north of Pawnee.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency have yet to issue permits for the lake. City Water, Light and Power water division manager Tom Skelly has said he does not expect a decision until early next year.

If a permit is issued, the city council will ultimately decide if Hunter Lake is the best option.

Before Monday's discussion, Hanrahan emphasized that both the IEPA and Army Corps of Engineers will respond to public pressure, as will aldermen.

"We want the aldermen to begin learning now what decisions they may need to face in the future, as well as the citizens of Springfield.

What do we stand to lose by destroying 1,500 acres of wood, hundreds of acres of wetland and beautiful historic sites in the Horse Creek Valley?" Hanrahan said.

He said CWLP is guilty of bad forecasting that has exaggerated the city's future water needs, and he took issue with city officials' assertion that 7.4 million additional gallons of water a day will be needed in the event of a 100-year drought.

"If you want to spend $80 million to make sure that once every 100 years you don't have to save water, then it is still our position there are better, cheaper, less destructive alternatives," Hanrahan said.

Alternatives include using groundwater, such as Sangamon River Valley wells, and refusing to sell 10 percent of the city's water supply to Waverly for use in a yet-to-be-built ethanol plant.

Bullard said taking better care of the current lake by initiating a dredging program could remove 2 feet of mud from the bottom, providing an additional 2 million gallons of water a day.

Semans also explained the historical and natural value of the Horse Creek Valley, which would be destroyed by Hunter Lake, by showing photographs of the natural landscape and its "visual delights."

He also said the area was once home to the Pensacola Stagecoach Stop, where Abraham Lincoln likely stopped.

"I don't think the citizenry know what the value of the Horse Creek Valley is because it's been concealed from them. We don't have access to it," Hanrahan said.

Citizens for Responsible Water Use has not had any formal discussions with aldermen or city officials. Hanrahan said the group is currently focused on education, and that's what Monday's discussion was about.

He cited a recent State Journal-Register Web site poll asking if Hunter Lake should be built that revealed roughly 19 percent of readers are undecided while about 34 percent are in favor and 47 percent are opposed.

"We're concerned about that 19 percent because they need to be educated, they need to know what the problems are and what the solutions are," Hanrahan said.

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