Farmers in the area have many concerns about the Kankakee River that so far have not been addressed in refuge discussions. At the root of these concerns is the buildup of sand in the river and the resulting drainage and flooding problems throughout the watershed. There is a real sense that without a dedicated and genuine sand removal effort, the river bed will impede water flow and cause problems for neighbors. Farmers in the area have seen the river change over time due to siltation of sand, including losing deep river channels and the rocky bottoms which provide places for fish to live and thrive.
There is a big concern that drainage will be worse with the refuge and that sand actually needs to be removed and prevented from entering the river at the rates it has been. This concern needs to be addressed in refuge plans to ensure the refuge does not increase drainage problems for farmers in the area. Farmers do their part in maintaining farm ditches to improve drainage for themselves and their neighbors up and downstream.
How a refuge will impact not only the Kankakee River but the entire extensive agricultural drainage system in Illinois, is also a concern for many farmers. At this time, achieving the wildlife goals of the refuge without negatively impacting neighboring farmers’ drainage seems impractical. Those concerns haven’t been addressed by US Fish & Wildlife Service, and repair or mitigation for the neighbors of a refuge has not been adequately achieved at other Illinois refuges.