Uncontrolled flooding along the Kankakee River may soon be a thing of the past, according to State Representative Doug Gutwein. He’s the author of recently-passed House Bill 1270, which he says will fix the river.
“We can’t stop the flooding but we can control it, and that’s what this whole plan’s all about,” he says. “When the floods come, we’ll flood DNR property first, and then we’ll deal with the farmers. We’ll deal with farmers that are willing to have their land as flood storage. They will be compensated, but we have to learn how to control this river.”
Gutwein says engineers have spent several years developing the plan, and some of the repair work could start this summer. “About $120 million is the estimated cost from South Bend to and including two counties in Illinois that are on board with this, as well,” he explains. “Basically, if you put a drop of water in that river you’re going to help us fix it.”
As part of the new law, the 24-member Kankakee River Basin Commission will be replaced by a nine-member “Kankakee River Basin and Yellow River Basin Development Commission,” with one representative from each of the basins’ eight counties and one from the Department of Natural Resources. “Twenty-four people had trouble agreeing on anything,” Gutwein says. “Eight will not. I told them in the session, I said that two folks in Illinois will be on this commission. They will not be voting members because I don’t want them telling us what to do with Indiana money.”
House Bill 1270 also imposes a funding mechanism to pay for the repairs. That could take the form of a special assessment on land parcels or direct payments from counties.