Starved Rock State park is located along the historic south bank of the Illinois River. Starved Rock is known for its many canyons and hosts over two million tourists a year. It has 2360 acres of natural wildlife, rivers and caves. It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960.
Today Starved Rock is in danger of being subject to pollution from sand mining. Mississippi Sand LLC is planning to open a sand mining operation on 350 acres of farmland just east of Starved Rock. The mine will be right next to the Illinois, Ottawa and Kaskaskia canyons. Sand mining is becoming an environment issue as the need for it increases in today’s construction businesses. Sand blasting and dust are known to cause many different types of pollution, which affect local populations and wildlife. Sand mining is known to cause air, light, soil, and ground and surface water contamination. It can destroy the productivity of farmland, which hurts grazing animals, as well as producing noise that scares the wildlife. Sand mining also hurts the land by causing erosion and sinkholes.
Starved Rock’s sand is special because it is very hard and round, which works great for hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”. Fracking is when a company injects chemicals and sand into underground pockets in the earth’s crust to hold up the ground for oil and natural gas to escape for extraction. Flat sand does not work, it would just collapse; sand like that in Starved Rock can hold open the underground holes.
Starved Rock was formed between 14,000 and 17,000 years ago by a catastrophic flood. Archeologists have found at least 14 different cave shelters used by humans in many culture periods. Starved rock shelters catfish, white bass and walleye, and 150 different types of flowers flourish there. All of this history and wildlife could be damaged by the pollution caused by sand mining. Is this sand so important that we will let Mississippi Sand LLC come in and destroy the beauty and history of this State Park?
It is unlikely that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources would approve the permit that LaSalle County Zoning Board recommended on December 15 and the LaSalle County Board granted on January 12. The LESA (Land Evaluation and Site Assessment) that the board reviewed was incomplete, and a calculation error was later discovered. The recalculated LESA score showed that by state law the pollution would be too great to the neighboring farms. The LESA showed the pollution at 209, and in the state of Illinois it can’t be above 200.
A written petition has been started by the Illinois Sierra Club. They have already gathered over 600 signatures for “Save Starved Rock—Stop the Sand Pits.” For more information, go to illinois.sierraclub.org.