Joining Illinois Sierra Club Members in Lake and Northeastern Cook Counties

Spring 2009, Issue #63

In This Issue

Go To Article More Communities Ban Phosphorus Usage
Go To Article Sierra Club Spring Meetings Bloom!
Go To Article Back Door Politics Employed for Latest SR-53 Attack
Go To Article Become a Stormwater Ranger
Go To Article Rt. 53 Extension Still Horrible Idea
Go To Article Economic Recovery
Go To Article Lake County Kudos
Go To Article YouTube Presents: Into the Watershed 5
Go To Article US Mail Slow, Switch to E-Mail
Go To Article 403 kBPrintable, Portable W&W News
Go To Article Next Issue of W&W News
Go To Article Previous Issue of W&W News
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{ Meetings O Outings


Return to TopMore Communities Ban Phosphorus Usage

By John Massman

Following the Village of Antioch's lead, Third Lake, Lindenhurst, Round Lake Park, Round Lake Beach and Vernon Hills have all banned lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus. Local leaders generally acknowledge that the effort is a small step in the global push to protect the environment, but have felt compelled to do what they can.

Fertilizers containing phosphorus can be carried by storm water runoff into local lakes and streams, leading to excessive growth of algae and weeds. When it dies off, it takes oxygen out of the water and chokes aquatic life. The Woods and Wetlands Group worked with the Village of Antioch to enact a ban on the use of lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus in the Village to reduce pollution in Lake Marie, one of the Chain O'Lakes. The Village board passed the ban in a unanimous vote in October of 2007, becoming the first community in Illinois to pass a phosphorus ban. Listen on our website to what the trustees had to say before they voted.

A handful of local and state leaders across the country have pushed for stronger regulations regarding phosphorus. In Twin Lakes, Wis., officials banned fertilizer containing phosphorus in 2002. And in 2005, the state of Minnesota prohibited such fertilizer except in areas where the soil lacks it. Although they understand the desire for a lush green lawn, any expert will tell you that phosphorus does not make grass greener, nitrogen does. Phosphorus helps establish hardy roots. In addition, most soil in the area contains enough phosphorus to grow a healthy lawn without additional phosphorus from fertilizer.

Antioch officials have prohibited residents and commercial lawn-care companies from using fertilizers that contain phosphorus. The ban does not apply to land lacking sufficient phosphorus or lands used for farming and agricultural businesses. The ordinance requires businesses that sell fertilizer to post signs notifying customers about the ban.

The Woods and Wetlands group hopes that more villages will follow these four, and that Lake County will follow suit and pass a county-wide ordinance banning the use of fertilizer containing phosphorus.


Return to TopSierra Club Spring Meetings Bloom!

A Personal Look at Solar Energy
Lisa Albrecht,
Illinois Solar Energy Association
Wednesday, April 15, 2009, 6:45pm
Vernon Area Library, Lincolnshire

Until recently, solar energy has been relegated to a few calculators and some experimental cars. Global warming has changed things, driving a demand for clean energy that makes solar a nearly perfect option.

Our speaker, Lisa Albrecht, is on the board of directors for Illinois Solar Energy Association and works for the pioneering firm, Solar Service, founded in 1977, long before solar was cool. She will speak to us about the role of solar energy nationally and world wide as we tackle climate change. Additionally, Ms. Albrecht will describe ways we can use solar energy in our homes.

Electric Cars
Bruce Wood, President and CEO, ePower Synergies, Inc.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 6:45pm
The Barn at Prairie Crossing, Grayslake

Bruce will discuss electric cars and how they play in our environmental and energy future. He will also bring an NEV and one or two of their other products including the BikeBoard.

Save These Dates for these W&W Events

Wed, April 15, VAPL Solar Power
Wed, May 27,
Byron Colby Barn, Grayslake
Electric Cars

For updates, see Meetings.


Return to TopBack Door Politics Employed for Latest SR-53 Attack

By Larry Marvet, Vice Chair

By the time you read this article in our printed newsletter, the latest attempt to accelerate Lake County development will likely have passed silently under your radar. In January, our Lake County Board decided to place a referendum on the April election ballot asking voters whether the State of Illinois should “...construct the extension of Illinois Route 53 from Lake Cook Road northerly to the existing Illinois Route 120?”

No ballot information discusses the environmental impact, cost, location or anything solid. In fact, even the official website scrupulously avoids discussion of these things, though an old map is shown with a possible location. And there is a reason for those exclusions—if they told you, you'd scream! The scale of environmental damage is amazing, from the nearly 70 wetlands that will be bulldozed, to the construction that will last years, if not decades, to the opening of high density development that will turn Lake County into a clone of Cook County.

Did I mention cost? At the going rate of about $70 million per highway mile, this 15 to 20 mile stretch could cost $1.5 billion! Building through wetlands is even more expensive, and the $1.8B cost given a decade ago is probably low. This might seem small compared to the economic stimulus program, but the stimulus money is for the whole country, not a single county. Doing the math, the State Road 53 extension would cost $2300 for every man, woman and child in our county! (Many of us could probably use a few thousand dollars in our current economy.)

Now I'm sure that our elected leaders will have many answers to the $1.5 billion expense, like maybe it will be covered by tolls or the federal government will pay for it. As to the feds, it seems unlikely, since 53 is far from “shovel ready,” and massive deficits after this stimulus will last for decades. Concerning tolls, let's assume that each driver will pay $1 per trip on the superhighway. So only 1.5 billion trips will be needed to cover the cost!

Like many mandates from our politicians, we, in the end, will pay for their excess, through taxes, lower property values, lost wildlife and wild lands, and the overall reduction in our quality of life. Not to mention the redirection of money from the maintenance of our horrible roads or the improvement of our nearly nonexistent mass transportation.

So, as a Lake County politician, what do you do when the facts are against you? First, talk about how a nice, new road will reduce traffic. Second, avoid any specifics, especially cost or environmental impact. Third, quietly put a softly worded, non-binding “advisory referendum” into an off year, spring election where less than 10% will vote. Finally, take the ballot victory as an overwhelming mandate to build the road and announce it at every opportunity.

That's were we may stand today. Fortunately, it doesn't change the facts. An extension of State Road 53 would be a disaster, both for the environment and for our finances.

Return to TopBecome a Stormwater Ranger

By Barbara Bell, Outings Chair

Woods & Wetlands is looking for a few stormwater rangers to help us monitor construction sites in Lake County.

Recently, three members of Woods & Wetlands Ex-Com, Evan Craig, Barbara Bell and John Massman, as well as member Jim Bland, attended a workshop on how to determine whether a construction site is complying with stormwater ordinances and the Clean Water Act.
OK, if you’re still reading, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why would anybody want to monitor a construction site and why is a construction site’s impact on stormwater regulated?” The reason for regulation is that stormwater runoff from a construction site can carry pollutants into our streams.

Sedimentation from construction sites that ends up in streams clouds the water and kills the plants and other organisms, including fish. On top of that, sedimentation in the water makes it harder for water treatment plants to make drinking water safe, and that pushes up the cost of water treatment. Also, up to 200 tons of topsoil is literally blown away from construction sites every a year. So it’s important for disturbance of the soils to be minimized, and for the soils to be stabilized again as soon as possible.

Stormwater Rangers are needed because the government simply doesn’t have enough resources to monitor construction sites. The Illinois Department of Environmental Protection only has one person assigned to monitoring construction sites for the entire state. Local government, which also monitors construction sites, also has a limited staff. Volunteers can help fill this gap.

In a nutshell, a Stormwater Ranger picks a local construction site to monitor over time. The Ranger makes sure that the developer of a site greater than one acre has a stormwater discharge permit from the IEPA. The developer is required to write a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP - pronounced “swip”) that includes best management practices (BMPs). The plan is supposed to protect nearby waters where stormwater will drain. Then the Stormwater Ranger visits the site periodically to make sure that the contractor follows the SWPPP, and that sediment leaving the site is minimized. The best times to check are a day before, and then immediately following significant rainfall. If you find problems, take pictures and notes. The IEPA website make it easy to report them if they are not fixed by the developer within seven days.

Despite the weak economy, there are many construction sites in Lake County that need monitoring. Being a Stormwater Ranger is a way to make a positive difference for the environment. It also can be a way to meet people and make new friends.

It’s more fun if Stormwater Rangers work together in pairs or groups to monitor one or more construction sites. Afterward, you can go out and talk about what you observed while enjoying a drink or even a meal.

If you want to be a Stormwater Ranger, contact Evan Craig, Chair of Woods & Wetlands. If we have enough interest, we can arrange for volunteers to be trained at a convenient site. The Sierra Club and Prairie Rivers Network provide the training.


Return to TopRt. 53 Extension Still Horrible Idea

by Evan Craig, Chair

Don’t be fooled. Extending Rt. 53 into Lake County would be an environmental disaster. Sierra Club is often eager to advise our members about how to vote for the environment, but the April 7 ballot referendum question is so frivolous that we refused to even take a position on it. A valid question would at least attempt to portray the fiscal and environmental costs that a voter would accept by voting yes, but this question lacked any accountability. It’s little more than a political stunt, and will do nothing to relieve Lake County’s congestion, regardless of the outcome.

The idea to extend Rt. 53 remains unchanged since we reported in 2001 on the so-called “Lake County Transportation Improvement Project” (LCTIP). It was a carefully planned PR campaign conceived to support the extension of Rt. 53. It was heavily biased, and generated a very misleading and unfinished Draft Environmental Impact Statement to dismiss the very real concerns about the environmental consequences of such an extension. No surprise, it supports it’s pre-decided conclusion. That’s illegal, but now it is being trotted out by desperate politicians as if it were factual. The fact is that federal law requires a complete and legal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before making a decision about major new highways, and one has not been completed for the Rt. 53 extension. Considering the obvious environmental consequences, it likely never will be.

Instead, our Let’s Get Moving! campaign focused on improving our transportation system in ways that would preserve our rich environment. We recommended improving intersections, improving our existing arterial road network, and increasing mass transit opportunities for business commuters, who cause most of the congestion. Many of those improvements were delayed for a decade by the controversy over Rt. 53. By agreeing to stop fighting for Rt. 53, some of those improvements have been made and are making a real difference, some are about to make a difference, and many more remain possibilities. It’s tragic that the Rt. 53 referendum stunt might once again frustrate very doable transportation improvements by competing with them for attention and funding.

Our bona fide environmental concerns are best understood by looking at the map (thanks to Lake County GIS) of the wetlands and Forest Preserves in the area that this extension would affect (the red line is in the approximate alignment, from Buffalo Grove to Grayslake). Literally dozens of wetlands would be directly impacted, and pollution from the road would impact many more connected wetland complexes and streams (including ADID wetlands not shown). Because of the mass grading necessary to build a multi-lane divided highway, groundwater recharge and quality would also be affected. The impact to wildlife in Lake County can be estimated by considering the fact that Lake County enjoys 135 endangered species, more than any other county in Illinois. Yet Lake County lags Cook County in the percentage of land protected as Forest Preserves. The reason these species persist here in Lake County is our wetlands, and the land in the right of way for Rt. 53, owned by IDOT and ISTHA, which represents an additional 10,000 acres of open space. The Rt. 53 corridor is our undeclared hidden wildlife preserve.

In addition to the land and water impacts, we are also very concerned about the additional air pollution that would arise as the proposed extension fills to capacity. A review of 24 scientific studies has revealed that highway corridors become cancer corridors. More traffic on new highways is wrong for our health, especially our children’s health.

There are better solutions, and here in Lake County, rail improvements should be given a chance to perform. As freight is shifted onto the EJ&E, more passenger trains will be possible on the Wisconsin Central to better serve central Lake County. In addition, passenger service on the EJ&E itself, a neglected component of the Lake County Framework Plan, should be aggressively pursued to provide a much needed E-W transportation option, and connect the area to Abbott and Waukegan, while promoting more sustainable and compact development patterns.

Lake County is also investing heavily in an Intelligent Traffic System. Its initial job is to coordinate traffic controls to reduce congestion. As I learned from LCDOT’s Transportation Management Center Director, Tony Khawaja, “Lake County is in the process of working with the PACE suburban bus division of the RTA on a pilot project to implement a transit signal priority system on Washington Street, Lewis Avenue and Grand Avenue all in the City of Waukegan. We will look closely at the results of this pilot and if successful we will bed in a better position to implement transit signal priority systems at other locations in Lake County.“ ITS should also be improved to help us plan, schedule and share our trips to reduce congestion. Tony adds, “Providing real time traffic data to travelers via cell phones or web-enabled mobile devices is recognized as an important next step …” We stopped letting planes take off without a flight plan and landing slot decades ago, and we should reward drivers that plan ahead too.

Ultimately, though, the only disincentive to sprawling development, which relies utterly on roads and demolishes our ecosystems, is the congestion it produces. Unless long distance road commuters pay the full cost of the peak road capacity they want, we will continue to see more of the traffic and sprawl vicious circle. As Larry points out on page 1, none of those crowing loudest for the extension would volunteer to pay for it themselves. Instead, they should move closer to work, and stop demanding that the rest of us pay for their long commutes.

Considering our need to cut global warming emissions by 80%, we need to choose more efficient modes of transportation to reduce the release of climate-changing CO2 that is sickening our planet. It’s time to invest in greener transportation choices for Lake County, not extend Rt. 53. — Let’s Get Moving! 


 Return to TopEconomic Recovery

By Evan Craig

As more jobs are lost and the recession deepens, I’ve been hearing more news reports about the need to get people spending again, and escalating government infusions of cash necessary to rescue “the economy.” But when I listen to the indices that are being used to judge whether that is happening, they are the same types of excess that got us into this mess. It’s all about housing starts, new car sales and consumer spending. As I explained in the last issue, this reveals the unspoken wish that we could just go back to the Business As Usual of the 1990’s. That wasteful path is unsustainable, and rescuing “the economy” that way has no future.

Instead, we need a recovery, and new economic indicators to measure the growth of a new Green Economy. Instead of new houses, we should count how many existing houses are upgraded to cut energy usage by 50%. Instead of new car sales, we should count solar cell and wind turbine sales. As more talent hits the street looking for a “job,” we should care more whether they build new green businesses for a new prosperity.


Return to TopLake County Kudos

By Evan Craig

Reading our newsletter, you could easily get the idea that there’s nothing good happening in Lake County. Certainly the County Board’s willingness to throw Lakewood FP to the Olympic lions last year, and their ridiculous temptation last month to sacrifice our hidden Rt. 53 wildlife refuge would support that.

As John hints in this issue, Lake County is contemplating a phosphorus fertilizer ban to mitigate the phosphorus that will be released from its expanding wastewater treatment facilities. Other good things are happening too.

Besides the $2.5M dedicated for the online Intelligent Transportation Systems, PASSAGE», the county continues to implement better bicycle transportation on our roads. According to commissioner Ann Maine, $3M was recently allocated for resurfacing Riverwoods Rd. with widened shoulders for bike traffic.

Lake County has also followed LEED guidelines to make the FPD Ryerson Visitor Center and the new LCDOT buildings energy efficient. We think this shows the kind of commitment needed, and hope to help the County become a Cool County by signing on to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels.


Return to TopYouTube Presents
Into the Watershed Part 5

This is one of the short films we showed at our winter W&W Film Festival. It's about the water in Lake Macatawa, MI, but it applies to the lakes here in our territory too. Click once to activate it, and again to start the video. If you would like to help with our 2010 film festival, send an e-mail to .

Return to TopMail Slow, Switch to E-Mail

By Evan Craig

Yeah, it’s a work of art, but we never know whether this W&W newsletter will get into the L&P and get to you in time to get involved. Meanwhile, the cost of postage just keeps going up.

Our solution? Sign up to get your newsletter by e-mail. It’s fast, and it’s free! We’ll send you these same great stories and events, with better pictures and richer content - in time to respond and participate! To sign up, address an e-mail message to


and then include the following commands in the body of the message :

SUBSCRIBE IL-WWG-ALERTS firstname lastname

(inserting your first name and last name).

Be sure to follow up with the town where you live, or your membership number.

If things don’t improve, we might decide to stop printing and mailing, and rely solely on e-mail and our website to get the news to you. So don’t miss out! Subscribe now. Be sure to follow up with the town where you live, or your membership number.

Worried that you might have missed an issue? We post this newsletter here on our website too. Bookmark our website:

Join Our Free E-mail Lists! Return to Top

Members are invited to join the W&W group's e-mail lists. On the ALERTS list you will receive infrequent timely posts from the Group Chair (only), primarily on local issues. Some of these appear on this website, and if you subscribe you will learn about them in time to help. The ISSUES list allows you to share in a discussion with other W&Wers. To sign up, just visit each of these websites and click Join :



We do not share e-mail address lists, and you can remove yourself from either list at any time.

Printable and Portable W&W News Return to Top

Here's the printed version of this issue of the W&W News in pdf ». It's 191 kB and you'll need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it. If you want to give a copy to a friend who doesn't have internet access, we suggest printing this pdf rather than this web page. This issue of the W&W News is also found in print as part of Volume 50 #2 » of the Illinois Chapter's Lake & Prairie newsletter. It's several MB.

Another option is to take this on your PDA with AvantGo », a free service that lets you download and synch web pages with your PDA. Just have it synch this one from Woods & Wetlands News #62 » .

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