LOWELL | An area federal conservationist has a list he thinks Illiana Corridor consultants should follow if they are to maintain environmental justice and not destroy agriculture in the project's path.
Members of No Illiana 4 Us are supporting points made earlier this month by Bill Moran, a district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
West Creek Township Trustee Harold Mussman distributed copies of the April 2 letter he received from Moran to the 100-plus crowd assembled Monday to strategize ways to defeat the Illiana Expressway.
Many of Moran's suggestions, if not implemented by project planners, provide ammunition to fight the Illiana, Mussman and his wife Pat said.
Moran said the proposed Illiana route cuts through no fewer than 23 major farming operations affecting at least 46 farm families.
"For the most part, soils in the corridor are clay or silt-based soils of the Valparaiso Moraine. For these soils to remain productive, surface drainage with a subsurface drainage component is essential to soil productivity and to long-term soil health," Moran said. He said it has been suggested an elevated highway would take care of farming and drainage issues.
Bruce Hamann is a Will Township official in Illinois and a farmer.
"We need to see agriculture as businesses being decimated," he said Monday.
About 70 tracts containing prime or unique farmland would be consumed by the corridor.
Moran suggested an agriculture district should be established in Lake County if the project moves forward. Mitigation funds would be used to buy development rights to preserve an area of prime and unique farmland equal in size to that being lost in the county.
A number of officials, including Craig Earley, D-1st, the Lowell Town Council vice president, have said Illiana planners' intentions to close some north/south local roads threaten the safety and health of south Lake County residents.
Pat Mussman said Monday the Illiana as outlined now would divide townships, school bus routes and emergency responder routes.
The No Illiana 4 Us movement is rallying property owners opposed to the Illiana roadway, Pat Mussman said Tuesday.
The Illinois and Indiana departments of transportation are sponsoring a public open session on the 46.8-mile stretch of highway from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Lowell Middle School, 19250 Cline Ave.