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Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011 11:15 am

Gravel pits won’t get the job done

Considering the Hunter Lake issue, I would like to bring up some points I believe other people may want to think about. [See also commentary by Reg Davis, “Say yes to Hunter Lake,” published Dec. 31, 2008.]

For years I have heard some people voicing that there are better and cheaper alternatives, namely the wells and gravel pits alternative. This alternative would supposedly consist of about six gravel pits in combination with a long series of wells that would be strung out for miles along the Sangamon River. These gravel pits and wells would all rely on the thin bands of aquifers along the river to supply Springfield water during a drought.

Many small communities between here and Decatur presently rely on these aquifers for their main source of water supply, with Chatham being the latest city to tap into them.

There was a report concerning these aquifers prepared in May 1998 by the Hydrology Division of the Illinois State Water Survey, titled Potential Ground-Water Resources for Springfield, Illinois. Here is something it says about the aquifers along Sangamon River Valley.

“Based on the available information describing the regional geohydrologic picture, the aquifers along the Sangamon River are limited, both in areal extent and in capacity to be recharged from precipitation and induced filtration, particularly during drought conditions.” Now I am not a hydrologist, but reading that statement does not sound very promising to me, and possibly even risky.

As far as I know, about all that has been done as a prerequisite to moving forward with this wells/gravel pits alternative is the feasibility study and a very preliminary cost estimate. At this time CWLP does own one of the needed gravel pits, but to go with this alternative they would have to purchase all the rest of the gravel pits, all the land for the wells and all the right of way to get the water piped between each well, each gravel pit, and to Lake Springfield.

Then there is the myriad of other issues that it would take to get this project off the ground. How long could all this possibly take, and if we did get it done, what would it cost? I don’t think anyone can accurately come up with the answer to these questions, either now or in the distant future.

What if we go with the wells/gravel pits alternative and they don’t actually end up being substantially cheaper? Isn’t this the only valid reason most people could possibly have for going with the alternative? It has taken CWLP 40 years to get most of the things done for the Hunter Lake project and they don’t have a permit from the IEPA and the Corp of Engineers to build it yet. Do we really want to start all this over again?

You also have the fact that the Hunter Lake project is estimated to supply about twice the amount of water this alternative is estimated to produce, and you also have the recreational and tourism aspects that Hunter Lake would produce.

If we are going to do it, why would we spend the money to build something that may supply us with about half the water capacity? This seems shortsighted to me. I also can’t foresee a lot of recreation and tourism from some operating gravel pits and dozens of wellheads in the river bottoms that flood periodically.

Besides what they have spent to purchase the land, CWLP has expended many millions so far on the Hunter Lake project. This money will have been spent for nothing if we decide not to build it.

I get the impression that some of the proponents of the wells/gravel pits alternative think CWLP will keep the Hunter Lake land if we go with this alternative. There are many people with buy-back clauses in their sales contracts from when they sold their land for Hunter Lake. The only logical reason I can think of not to build Hunter Lake would be to sell all the land to help pay for this inferior alternative. From what I understand this is absolutely what will happen, but I think it would be a shame.

Reg Davis is a fourth generation resident of Springfield with family ties to the Hunter Lake property. He has followed and researched the lake issue for more than 20 years.

Also from Reg Davis

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