We live on Baldwin Drive in Machesney Park about a quarter mile from where Willow Creek runs into the Rock River. Willow Creek is the back boundary of our property. Since moving here three years ago, we noticed the creek inexplicably dries up during times that have nothing to do with lack of precipitation.
When we first witnessed this in 2014 we followed the creek from Rock Cut to North Second Street in Machesney Park. Somewhere between Alpine and North Second Street the creek suddenly dries up. We walked up the creek from North Second until we came to a area that could not be traversed due to pools of water and debris. The condition of the creek was pathetic. It has been used for a dumping ground for construction. Huge pieces of concrete were dumped in the creek behind the apartment buildings on Crystal Drive. We had expected to find evidence of someone damming the creek for swimming, nothing so evident or minor came up on our trek.. Though the concrete we discovered seems like it would be an illegal dumping issue.
We have talked to the Soil and Water Conservation office which referred us to Illinois Environmental Protection (IEPA). We we called at around 2 p.m. one day, got a message from the IEPA saying to call between the regular business hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Someone needs to reset their clocks.) We have also talked to local officials and municipal department administrators in both Machesney Park and Loves Park. The only responses we’ve gotten have been it wasn’t their area, referrals to other agencies or promises of follow up. We have followed up on every referral the most recent being the Department of Natural Resources. At this time, we are waiting for a call back from the DNR.
With all the rain this season, we were hopeful about having moving water. Still, the creek was bone dry at times. A neighbor with 25 plus years experience told us that the creek began to dry up after the beach was added at Rock Cut State Park. It’s worsened with the work on 173. Willow Creek is mentioned in the Winnebago County Hydrologic and Hydraulic Analysis, Proposed Scope of Work of 1/5/2012 but the analysis only has to do with flood plains. Source: illinoisfloodmaps.org/DFIRMpdf/discovery/winnebago/WinnebagoScopeofWork.pdf.
At this point, it appears that the environmental impact hasn’t been a part of the planning from Rock Cut to the river. Woodward’s new plant and the OSF property near the creek have holding ponds, deep wells and fountains on the properties. All this lowers groundwater levels, diverts water and causes more waste through evaporation. Where is the impact information?
This past week the creek flowed and we notice a lot of baby fish in some of the pools. Evidently, this is a spawning area. Sadly, while walking in our backyard on Sunday, July 26 we were assaulted with the smell of rotting fish. The streams flow has stopped and the fish are trapped, dying and some are dead. This is both a health hazard and an environmental fiasco. (See pictures)
All we’ve learned at this point is we are responsible for clearing trees that fall into the creek from our property. But what about problems that are caused upstream that are taking their toll on the quality of life on residents along the creek as well as the environmental implications?
It seems the recreational and industrial diversions are taking their toll on the creek. Attempts to find out what has or could be done have been dead ends so far. It’s a sad state when our water and the habitat it creates is not considered in the overall planning.
We would like answers from our public servants and from the agencies including the EPA that are supposed to have oversight in these areas. So far we haven’t gotten any answers.
Jodell and Marty Gabriel
Machesney Park, IL