July 26, 2010

Workshops to focus on Lower Kaskaskia watershed

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Residents of St. Clair and Madison counties can learn about the health of the Lower Kaskaskia River watershed and what they can do to improve it during any one of four free public workshops running from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Aug 9-12.

Monday’s workshop will take place at Mildred Feurer Hall (Southwestern Illinois College’s PSOP Building), 201 N. Church St., in Belleville. The Freeburg Township Hall, 203 S. Richland St., will play host to Tuesday’s group. Those attending Wednesday’s event will meet in O’Fallon’s Public Safety Building, 285 N. Seven Hills Road. The last workshop is set for the Tri-Township Park Community Center, 409 Collinsville Road, in Troy.

Organized by researchers from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Illinois State University and the University of Minnesota, the workshops will summarize findings of a three-year study of water quality in 43 of the river’s sub-watersheds. They also will present information outlining community strengths and needs to address water quality issues based on the opinions of city officials, farmers, developers, local Farm Bureau staff members, district conservationists and nearly a thousand area residents.

Funding for the project came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service. Southwestern Illinois Resources Conservation and Development is sponsoring the workshops.

“In addition to presenting some of our findings about water quality, we’ll be talking about what community government can do, what people can do collectively as residents and some strategies for what they can do at the individual level,” said researcher Erin L. Seekamp, an SIUC assistant professor of forestry.

“We also have a watershed management game -- a sort of interactive role play -- where participants can explore how community decisions affect water quality and how communities can work together to develop solutions to problems.”

Once the research team has presented the study information to the communities involved, it will post its report on the project website, kaskaskia.illinoisstate.edu.

“In addition to giving an overview of our research, the website will include maps of the study areas, real-time stream water quality data and a community forum where people can ask questions and discuss issues,” Seekamp said.

The team also is developing a project exhibit that will travel to area libraries and schools.

“We’re trying to extend our reach to youth,” Seekamp said. “They have an amazing ability to influence their parents. We also hope to get youth interested not just in the watersheds but in science as well.”

The workshops are free, but organizers would like those planning to attend to register by Aug. 5, as refreshments will be served. They also will give away two rain barrels at each workshop. To register, e-mail Mae Davenport at mdaven@umn.edu or call her at 612/624-2721.