To the editor:
In what can only be described as mind-boggling, a new bill in the Illinois State Legislature, SB 2556, redefines "100-year floodplain" – essentially saying there are none.
There are currently state regulations on activities in the 100-year floodplain, such as a prohibition against new landfills and the storage of hazardous waste, controls on sewage treatment plants and livestock waste lagoons, and a requirement that "critical facilities," such as nursing homes, be elevated or relocated outside the 100-year floodplain.
Most communities in Illinois have adopted similar local floodplain regulations.
Sen. Bill Haine, who introduced the Floodplain Definition bill, apparently disagrees that those protections are a good idea.
He says that the "100-year-floodplain" designation is an "economic disaster" and proposes to change the definition. His bill removes restrictions in the Environmental Protection Act; the Rivers, Lakes and Streams Act; and the Livestock Management Act if the area is protected by a levee. It matters not if the levee is minimally insufficient or has been declared structurally unfit and has defects, as long as there is an intent to repair it. Some day.
The change in the 100-year floodplain designation would even apply to permits that are pending.
The bill is strongly supported by Waste Management, which has an application pending in the IEPA Bureau of Land for a permit to develop a new landfill—you guessed it—in the 100-year floodplain, adjacent to Horseshoe Lake in Madison County.
It would also apply to a new senior housing development underway in Caseyville.
The bill would gut Illinois Executive Order 2006-05 that requires State agencies which plan, promote, regulate, or permit activities in the State's floodplain areas to ensure that all projects meet the standards of the State floodplain regulations or the National Flood Insurance Program, whichever is more stringent.
The Executive Order is intended to ensure that state resources and funds are not being used for inappropriate and dangerous floodplain development. It is also required by FEMA in order for the State of Illinois to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and guarantees the state's eligibility for certain types of federal disaster assistance.
Failure to comply could cause communities in Illinois to be suspended from the National Flood Insurance Program and force local communities to bear the financial burden of NFIP floodway compliance which is now done for them by IDNR.
Suspension from the NFIP could result in thousands of Illinois citizens losing their flood insurance, their eligibility for disaster assistance, and potentially their home loans if they are tied to flood insurance coverage.
All this in a year the U.S. Weather Bureau indicates has the potential for heavy spring flooding.
The bill is opposed by Governor Pat Quinn, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the Illinois EPA, the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the Illinois Department of Insurance, as well as the Illinois Chapter and National Associations for Floodplain Management, the Illinois Environmental Council, Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network, The Nature Conservancy and other environmental groups.
If you agree that landfills, hazardous waste, livestock waste lagoons and nursing homes (think Katrina) don't belong in the 100-year floodplain, call Sen. Haine at 217.782-5247 or 618.465-4764 and ask him to please withdraw his bill.
Rep. Tom Holbrook is sponsoring a similar bill (HB4988) in the House, co-sponsored by Rep. Dan Beiser. Rep. Holbrook can be reached at 217.782-0104 or 618.394-2211; Rep. Beiser at 217.782-5996 or 618.465-5900.
You could also call or write your own legislative representative and senator and ask them to please not vote for these bills.
Illinois Sierra Club Floodplain Task Force, Chair
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Governor Pat Quinn
Illinois Department of Agriculture