"Veto proof" legislation in Congress would restore the link between the Cass County town's marina and the Illinois River's main navigational channel.
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It’s taken years of wrangling, but Beardstown appears to be on the verge of fulfilling the most basic requirement of being a "river town" — regaining permanent access to the Illinois River.
A federal spending bill awaiting the president’s signature would restore the connection between the Cass County town’s marina and the Illinois River’s main navigational channel.
Muscooten Bay and the marina in Beardstown have suffered from siltation ever since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at the direction of Congress, altered the path of the Sangamon River beginning in the 1930s. The Sangamon, which flows into the Illinois River upstream from Beardstown, was rerouted to prevent flooding of nearby farmland.
The 2007 Water Resources Development Act, if authorized, would reverse much of the work on the Sangamon River and remove silt that has mired the marina. U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, calls the bill "veto proof." If it is vetoed, the bill’s overwhelming approval in both houses of Congress would make overriding the veto an easy endeavor.
"We’ve been fighting for over 15 years to get this corrected," said Beardstown Mayor Bob Walters. "We’ve got to come up with a long-term solution."
The city and the Corps had worked out temporary fixes in the recent past, including dredging a link between the silt-filled marina and river channel a few years ago. But that area became unnavigable within six months.
"We live right on the Illinois River and have to drive 10 miles to put a boat in the river," Walter said. "It doesn’t make any sense."
And it has cost Beardstown, Walters added. The city’s marina is the largest between Peoria and Alton, but it can’t cash in on recreational or commercial boat traffic. Silt from the Sangamon River also has turned the town’s riverfront into mud flats.
A few restoration options exist and could be implemented for roughly $4 million to $5 million, starting as early as next spring, Walters said. But the impact on Beardstown could be far more substantial, revitalizing the river town along with its riverfront.
"We’ll be able to capture more dollars," he said. "That’s the goal of economic development and this is going to go a long way toward making that happen."