By Jim Hagerty
About 50 people gathered at David Olson Photography Studio Monday, Jan. 24, to see a visual tour of the Madigan Creek watershed.
The program, sponsored by the Blackhawk Sierra Club, was centered on the almost-hidden Madigan Creek and how it runs through a large portion of the city. According to slides in the visual tour, the creek also plays a part in some of Rockford’s flooding problems and Kishwaukee River pollution.
To key on the problem, Rockford residents and the Kishwaukee River Ecosystem Partnership (KREP) have asked Winnebago County officials to develop a watershed management program to redevelop Madigan Creek.
Madigan Creek flows into the Kishwaukee River in Cherry Valley. It drains in areas near Guilford, Bell School and Mulford roads near Interstate 39. Near those drainage areas, the creek often causes yards to flood, garbage and debris to wash onto residential property, and soil and wooded areas to rapidly erode.
Stephen Vaughn, who presented the visual tour, said because Madigan Creek flows in and out of several natural wetlands within the city limits, the urban stream could be a cherished asset instead of an environmental eyesore.
To make that possible, KREP was able to secure grants to re-route the creek so residents can utilize it as a resource, and pollution to the Kishwaukee River can be quelled.
As it stands, much of Madigan Creek contains stagnant flood water, lawn fertilizer, grease, gas and oil from parking lots and debris—all of which is eventually emptied into the river. The program to rebuild the tributary would involve re-routing the creek away from areas that have seen extensive urban development, building retention ponds and officially protecting some of its nearby wetlands.
“The overall problem must be done on a watershed basis,” Jerry Paulson of the Natural Land Institute said, speaking of the problems many landowners have with flooding and erosion. “We can’t do it individually. There has to be a watershed approach. Keep in mind, we are addressing a problem that has been caused over a number of decades.”
Planning is scheduled to begin this spring. Winnebago County, led by Don Krizan, has contracted environmental planning firm Hey and Associates, Inc., to develop the watershed. Friends of Madigan Creek, the City of Rockford, the Village of Cherry Valley, Rockford Township and Rockford Park District are also contributing to the project. The project will be funded by grants from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act, Section 319.
More information about the project can be obtained by calling Krizan of the Winnebago County Highway Department at (815) 319-4022.