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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

What Happened Here? The Return to Nature

Because of contamination from various hazardous substances resulting from decades of operation as a refinery, in 2011, the IDNR and IEPA, represented by the Illinois Attorney General, reached a settlement agreement with Texaco Inc., that would preserve and enhance ecological features in the area south and east of the former refinery, or the property featured for the last week on this blog.

In June 2011, approximately 2000-2500 acres were transferred to the state. Much of the area provided habitat for songbirds, marsh birds and migratory birds as well as a number of other wetland-dependent animals. A number of animal and plant species of conservation concern, including several on the state list of threatened or endangered species, have been documented in the area. This area has been named: Embarras River Bottoms State Habitat Area (ERBSHA).

The land that George Rogers Clark waded through, that John Small built a mill on, that a horrendous massacre occurred on, that a town was built on, and then history forgot for almost 200 years has returned to its natural state.

In a press release by the Department of Natural Resources IEPA Director Doug Scott said: “As a result of this agreement, the public will receive new public outdoor recreation opportunities in a restored area near the former refinery. Areas such as floodplain forest habitat that saw damages to the soil, plants, trees and wildlife from refinery operations during the last century will be restored for future generations to enjoy.” (The Management-Monitoring Plan for the Embarras River Bottoms State Habitat Area prepared for July 1, 2018 - June 30, 2020 called for “posting IDNR signs along the perimeter of the property as well as installing gates and/or pickets at access points of the property in an effort to limit trespassing.” But Hey, it’s for future generations, remember.)

If you are interested in conservation and nature, then by going to this website, you will be able to read about several surveys concerning turtles, fish, birds, bat and even dragonflies that have been done in the area. Reports are only included up to the year 2020. Either no surveys have occurred since that date, or inadequate personnel or state funding or some other such problem has prevented the website from being updated for three years.

Perhaps this historic land where so much of our county’s history has happened has once again been forgotten.

The bright blue wiggly line is the old channel of the Embarras. It flows into the Wabash at the bottom right. To put the map in perspective, Billett is noted at the middle left. This won't help you if you don't know where Billett is. . . .

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