Category Archives: Conservation Issues

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Fox River Scum

After a few weeks of going through a lack of interest in fishing the Fox River, I didn’t think I’d wind up spending three hours chasing down the source of Fox River scum.

I really did want to go fishing.

Thought I would go hit Saw Wee Kee. Crossing the river on the Orchard Road bridge, I sized up the river real quick and didn’t like what I saw.

Up close and personal it got even worse.

It looks like a giant plugged up swirling toilet bowl covered in floating shit.

The shore under the bridge:

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As I drove drove the road along the river, I stopped to talk to a couple that lives in one of the houses along this stretch. They said this had appeared a couple of days earlier. They also mentioned that it was here last year, but we all agreed this was considerably worse then last year. They live on one of the best spots for smallies, but the guy said he won’t throw a lure in that.

A few more shots of the stretch between Orchard Road and the Saw Wee Kee canoe launch. It’s about a mile:

Did I mention I just wanted to go fishing?

After seeing this, the old Boy Scout in me, the one I’ve been trying to kill off for years because he can’t just walk away from shit like this, decided to wander up stream to see if he could find the source of the problem.

I had no choice but to tag along.

These two shots were taken in Oswego:

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About another mile up stream in Oswego. I think it’s called Troy Park. I noticed far fewer shit balls here:

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A little further up stream at Violet Patch Park, took a quick shot of a couple of kayakers floating down the river. I felt sorry for them:

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Mainly because just to their right, all along the west shore, they had this to enjoy:

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Looking up stream form the same vantage point. Under the bridge where I’m standing are riffles. Things seem to get worse when the scum gets churned up in the riffles:

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The upstream side of the Fox Metro plant. After this, didn’t seem to matter to go check the outflow:

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The Route 30 bridge is the one I was curious about. Last year when I traced this problem back, I stopped here because it seemed to dissipate at this point. This shot is of the east channel. Doesn’t look that bad. I live nearby and the night before I was sitting on the east shore watching the sun set and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary:

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I wandered over to the west side and that’s where it got odd. Can’t tell if this is light reflecting off the scum, which covered the whole west channel for as far as you could see, or if it was some kind of film:

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The next couple of shots, you can see the scum that covered the whole west channel:

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Down the street from where I live in Montgomery, didn’t look too bad:

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North Avenue on the south edge of Aurora. Still there, but it wasn’t looking as bad:

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This next one caught me by surprise. Right at the North Aurora dam looking up stream along the west shore. Upstream is the Mooseheart shit plant with a small outflow. It’s at the mouth of Mill Creek. Would have added an hour to get there to look, it’s a hike in, and I was running out of time:

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Last two shots are from Batavia. You can see some scum, but nothing like further down stream. There is a certain amount of this I’m used to. It’s an urban river and I’ve seen it at all kinds of stages year round for 20 years. Still wouldn’t call this normal, but it’s closer:

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The next few shots is what I documented last year and never did anything with. I had already been standing in it while fishing and this shit was a bitch to get off my waders. While wandering around down around Millbrook, I came across a bunch of it and tracked it back to Route 30 when I gave up. It didn’t look too bad at that point. I thought this was bad last year. It pales in comparison to what is going on right now:

I have no clue if this has anything to do with the scum, but the last couple of years they rebuilt and expanded Route 30 on both sides of the river. For miles on the east side. I know they installed all new drainage/sewer pipes, I saw them lining the road last year. I wanted to blame last year’s event on that.

This year in Aurora on Route 31, they rebuilt 31 for a few blocks. I read they were replacing sewer lines to solve combined sewer issues.

Those both could be incidental to all of this. I’ll never know.

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Farnsworth House

In April of 2001, when the state of Illinois was considering the purchase of the Farnsworth House and the 62 acres of land it sits on along the Fox River, I wrote a letter and sent it to damn near everyone I knew at the time that had anything to do with conservation, along with sending it to the Letters sections of all the papers.

I knew that in 1996, when the Fox had a 100 year flood event, it inundated the Farnsworth House and it cost $250K to restore it. As the infamous WGN radio host Spike O’Dell said at the time of the 1996 floods… “What did you think was going to happen when you paved everything over, water’s gotta go somewhere.”

I had studied architecture and knew all about Mies and the historic significance of the house, why it was built the way it is and why it’s located where it is… and none of that mattered to me.

Apparently I made that quite clear in part of the letter I wrote back then.

Common sense dictates that you don’t build homes in floodplains.

I think the emphasis on why the State of Illinois should purchase the Farnsworth property needs to be reevaluated. The purchase of the house would include 62 acres of land that borders the Fox River. The land alone, with or without the inclusion of the house, should be purchased by the state.
The Farnsworth property is next to, and across the river from, Silver Springs State Park. Adding the 62 acres to Silver Springs would protect a beautiful stretch of the Fox River from development, and guarantee public access to a body of water that is quickly becoming surrounded by private property.
As for the house, if it is included in the purchase, it should be moved further back on the floodplain. I don’t think moving it will have any effect on its architectural integrity. In the long run, the move will save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair bills as the house will no longer get damaged by floods.

The picture at the top of this post is from April of 2013, never did bother looking into what it cost to repair it that time. I know there was another high water event just a few years earlier. Those pesky 100 year high water events decided to almost become a regular feature of the river.

I distinctly recall having a conversation about this back then and suggested moving the house to the edge of the cornfield up the hill to the north and east of where it now sits.

Flash forward 14 years to an article that was in the Tribune’s Beacon News on June 19, 2015:

Trust considers moving Mies van der Rohe home on the Fox River

One of the three options being considered is what I suggested 14 years ago.

Ultimately this has nothing to do with the Farnsworth House, the legacy of Mies van der Rohe or whether or not you like glass and steel buildings. I think the world could do just fine with a little less glass and steel.

For me it became a revelation as to why I get bored and disinterested with “issues” so quickly. I have no clue why my brain draws conclusions as quickly as it does, but for many years I’ve felt compelled to share these conclusions with others only to have them met with disinterest and ridicule.

Which is why I now consciously avoid saying much of anything regarding issues.

Yet here it is 14 years and at least two damaging flood events later, someone came up with the brilliant idea that maybe this building should be moved out of the way some how.

Well, there’s a novel idea.

Maybe by the time it gets out of committee and I happen to live to be 90, I’ll see it happen.

But I’m not banking on it.

In the mean time I think an opportunity is being missed.

I hear that on a nice, bright, sunny day the Farnsworth House turns into the world’s largest convection oven.

Imagine the cook offs that could be done.

Maybe this is what Mies intended for the Farnsworth House all along.

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Filamentous Algae is back with a Vengeance

The filamentous algae is back with a vengeance starting at the Montgomery crap plant on the Fox River.

In October of 2012 I put up a long post called Consider this Source. Over the course of two years, I documented the filamentous algae issues that were out of control from the Montgomery crap plant to at least Yorkville.

I sent a link to that post to as many people I could think of that has anything to do with Fox River conservation issues. I have no clue if what I did had any impact, nobody ever bothered responding to me. What I do know is that in 2013 and 2014 the algae never reappeared.

That has changed, the algae is back.

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That tells me that the Montgomery crap plant is screwing around with the nitrate levels they release again. I believe that’s what happened last time.

Right now the algae is only in the clear water coming from the plant. When you get to the edge of the plant outflow where it runs along in the river, the algae stops in a very distinct line.

I already know what’s going to happen. By the time the outflow water gets to Oswego, it mixes with all of the other river water. Pretty much starting from the Route 34 bridge down for as far as you want to walk in the river, the algae will start to clog the whole river again. That happened last time, there’s no reason it won’t happen again.

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I’m hoping those in conservation groups up and down the Fox River will see this. I’m hoping those that read this will pass it along to groups they might know. This has to stop. Before 2010, it never happened. It was gone again in 2013-14. All anyone has to do is go stand at the beginning of the outflow of the crap plant, look down stream and the source of all this algae is slapping you in the face.

And, while your at it, ask them about the pictures below.

I fished along the crap plant on April 5th and came across this.

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They had just gone through and cut down all the brush between their fence and the river’s edge. Rather than remove it, they let it lay down along the bank and into the river. I’m assuming they figured that the usual spring high water would take it all down stream somewhere.

We never got very high water and today, June 13th, the brush still sits along the bank and in the river.

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I would imagine there’s a law against doing this.

Or there should be.

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Your Membership has Expired

Your Membership has Expired

Did you get my message? It’s time to renew your TU membership. With your support, TU will continue working tirelessly to protect, reconnect, restore and sustain America’s trout and salmon habitat. Make your $35 contribution today and you’ll receive a new TU car decal and $30 off your next purchase of $100 or more at Orvis.com.

Oh, I got the message.

This one along with the other 20 or so I’ve got in the last two months through both snail mail and email.

No, I will not be renewing my membership. The primary reason being that there are no trout in Illinois and I don’t travel to try to catch them. I did make an effort to pursue trout over a decade ago in a couple of trips to Wisconsin. I quickly learned that the pursuit of trout bores me to tears.

But I kept renewing my membership.

Over the years I like to think I’ve done quite a bit to protect, reconnect and restore some of the rivers and creeks here in the northeast corner of Illinois. Why not support a group that is attempting to do that nationwide, if not worldwide.

Then a few years ago my interest in anything outside of my limited world here in the Fox Valley began to wane. I’m now officially not a member of anything. No groups, no clubs, no organizations. No more board seats for local organizations. Over the last two years I’ve let my guiding service die. No more fishing classes and just last year I turned down a handful of opportunities to speak to groups or clubs about fishing.

This self imposed isolation is twofold.

First, my spare time has become very limited and what little I have is extremely precious to me.

Second, I put this at the end of a recent post:

And with this, I am done with my Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Updates.

There will be no more.

I’m sure I will go fishing on the creek come March, I’m sure I’ll catch some fish, I’m sure I’ll take some pictures and I’m sure I’ll write something up about the fishing trip.

But I will no longer mention the creek by name. There will be no recognizable photos of the creek posted. As far as anyone else is concerned, it’s just another one of the seven or so creeks I fish that happen to feed into the Fox River.

This is going to be done for purely selfish reasons.

The interest level in fishing the Fox River and it’s creeks, at least in the areas I like to fish, has dropped off considerably over the past eight years.

I run into practically no one while out there fishing.

And I want to keep it that way.

I was going to expand on this a bit, it’s all in my head, but I’m going to leave it there.

I think that pretty much explains everything.

I will give it to you though TU, you almost had me. You almost had me renew my subscription and it wasn’t anything you did directly.

In a recent issue of Gray’s Sporting Journal, there was a photo essay. A couple of guys in Minnesota that went out trout fishing in the middle of winter on a small stream and they were using light spinning gear.

I don’t recall any derogatory remarks about their choice of equipment. A shot was included of a small floating Rapala. More shots of a beautiful little stream being walked by a couple of guys, with spinning gear. Mention was made of numerous trout caught.

There was even a shot of one of them lighting up what appeared to be a damn fine cigar.

I thought, there’s hope for these trout guys yet!

But it didn’t work. It didn’t win me over.

Instead, this year I’ll be out somewhere in the Fox Valley in pursuit of smallmouth bass during one of my 70 or so fishing trips. With spinning gear. Only, if anyone bothers to read what I’ll be writing, you’ll know I’m in the Fox Valley somewhere, but where?

You won’t even realize I’m out there fishing and observing and extolling the virtues of my surroundings and I don’t even have a fly rod in my hand. It’s an inefficient tool for accomplishing a simple goal, to catch a fish, so why bother with it and why even bother mentioning what’s being used?

As a tip of my hat to the world of trout though, I just might include some shots of me lighting up a…

Who am I kidding, I don’t smoke damn fine cigars.

As the wife calls them… your little shit sticks.

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Welcome to my world.

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Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Update, Wrap it Up

To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.
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As far as I’m concerned, the removal of the 175 year old, nearly 8 foot tall dam near the mouth of Blackberry Creek was a raging success.

I gauge this primarily on the migration of smallmouth bass up the creek, of which there were hundreds. But numerous other species of fish were also caught far up the creek this past year. It’s hard to tell if those species were already in the creek, most likely, but I have no doubt quite a few new fish found there way up stream. One of the ones I was surprised at was the longnose gar. Never saw one beyond the base of the removed dam, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to make it further inland.

Only time will tell.

If you look through the list of posts made in the link at the top, there’s a gap in what I had been putting up. There were two reasons for that. First, by the first week of July it had pretty much quit raining and the creek kept dropping. Second, when this happens I don’t like to go out and pound the hell out of fish that are sitting in diminishing pools of water.

Now and then I would head over to the creek mainly to see if any progress was being made in restoring the area of the removal back to something a little more natural. You’ll see some of those photo’s below. For about seven weeks I didn’t bother going over to the creek at all. Low water and it was basically like watching grass grow at this point. As you’ll see, it was exactly like watching grass grow.

So to start, on July 7th I wandered to the creek:

When they put in all the rock, they threw down a considerable amount of seed in and above the rocks. It was coming in pretty thick.

A number of nice sized trees were planted.

A large area was covered in grass seed. Problem was, and how do you plan for it, this is when it pretty much stopped raining for a few weeks.

Another long stretch of rocks had grass coming in pretty strong above it.

A few weeks ago I read an article about the dam removal. I can no longer remember where and I can’t find it. But I remember IDNR stream biologist Steve Pescitelli being quoted in it at length. One of the things he mentioned was the smallmouth bass migration up the creek and that they found them four miles inland.

For over a decade I’ve been exploring Blackberry Creek inland, but never fished it. Since I pursue smallmouth bass in creeks, I assumed because of the dam near the mouth there was no point looking for smallies. Over those years I would fish at the base of the dam once or twice a year. Every smallie caught was tossed over the dam, my own little stream stocking program. A couple of years ago a friend sent a note that they had caught a couple of smallies about a mile up from the dam. Apparently my private stocking program might have worked a little.

This year I went inland looking for them. I’ve been eyeballing a spot ten miles inland for many years and on July 12th I did a little exploring:

The creek is a little flatter this far inland, much like the land surrounding it, but you still get some classic riffle/run/pool scenarios.

I remember the day as 90 degrees and the creek a little low, so I was happy to catch a couple of these 10 miles inland.

On July 22nd I was back at the main construction site to see how things were growing along:

Boulders were placed along the edge of the parking lot in an effort to idiot proof the area. Heaven forbid common sense tells you not to drive your car out there.

Over two weeks later, still no rain, nothing growing. I was a little concerned about the trees getting stressed out, but won’t know if they survived till spring of next year.

I didn’t go back again till August 11th:

We still hadn’t got much rain, but the grass behind the boulders didn’t seem to care. I didn’t get a picture, but beyond that grass line there was still nothing growing.

One of the things I don’t think they should have done as part of this project is restore what they call a wetland. If the dam wasn’t there, this wetland wouldn’t have existed. At least not eight feet above the creek bed. I think this is all fill that slowly collected over 175 years and if they really wanted to restore this wetland, then they should have taken the whole area down to creek level:

Now this wetland is an eight foot tall ridge along the creek with a big dry hole behind it.

In order for the water to fill this hole the creek has to come up over three feet to get over the rocks they put along one small stretch. That doesn’t happen that often and this hole will dry up again. If in 20 years you come here and find this whole area to be a nice, heavily wooded area made up of oaks and maples, I don’t know anything about it…

There are some flowers establishing themselves in amongst the rocks.

I didn’t go back to the creek again till October 2nd. Most of the pictures I took that day are in a post that I put up on October 7th. There’s an update on the creek in that post.

We had been getting rain by then, but it came too late to get things growing. It did soften the dirt in the area though. The one thing that pissed me off that day was seeing this:

Remember the boulders on the edge of the parking lot? Apparently they weren’t put close enough together. No matter how well you try to idiot proof something, God will come along and simply create a better idiot.

And with this, I am done with my Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Updates.

There will be no more.

I’m sure I will go fishing on the creek come March, I’m sure I’ll catch some fish, I’m sure I’ll take some pictures and I’m sure I’ll write something up about the fishing trip.

But I will no longer mention the creek by name. There will be no recognizable photos of the creek posted. As far as anyone else is concerned, it’s just another one of the seven or so creeks I fish that happen to feed into the Fox River.

This is going to be done for purely selfish reasons.

The interest level in fishing the Fox River and it’s creeks, at least in the areas I like to fish, has dropped off considerably over the past eight years.

I run into practically no one while out there fishing.

And I want to keep it that way.