"Power is Water"

December 17, 2002

By Joyce Morrison



To submit a Letter to the Editor: letters@illinoisleader.com

Illinois State Treasurer Judy Barr Topinka may have said more than she realized when she was recently quoted as saying, "What is power? Power is food. Power is water. And we have both."

Water wars are no longer on their way to Illinois. They are here. They come in every shape and size, from the rivers to the streams to underground aquifers.

Is the well on your property really yours? Is the stream flowing through your farm yours to use?

The value of a good farm has always been based upon whether or not it had water. A spring or stream flowing through the farm was essential to the raising of livestock. Requirements for livestock owners to fence their herds away from streams and ponds is on the horizon. Livestock drinking water would have to be pumped into watering tanks causing more labor and cost to the producer.

What seems funny is the fact that now cows are not supposed to drink in a stream but deer, buffalo, and every native species can. Could there possibly be a connection between this and Clinton's "Invasive Species Executive Order"? Cows are an invasive species. Deer are native.

Watersheds are going to become a real nightmare. Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) will intimidate every golf course, municipality, farm or anywhere a drop of water falls. The fact that pollution credits can be traded and bought makes a mockery of the whole pollution process. If X number of TMDLs are permitted, a governmental or non-governmental agency can take "your" credits, if you have met the run-off standards, and sell them to a power plant, water company or some other industry and they can continue to pollute.

It has very little to do with pollution, but is another step to control you and your property.

The United Nations has embarked on the "International Year of Freshwater 2003" with all kinds of activities.

Won't this be fun?

They want a Riverkeeper on every stream and river in the world. They intend to spend approximately $45 billion dollars to meet the agreed water and sanitation targets.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "Water is likely to become a growing source of tension and fierce competition between nations if present trends continue, but it can also be a catalyst for cooperation."

He went on to say that communities, business sector and individuals all over the world will play a vital role in the action needed.

Are "you" an individual living in a community? If you said yes, then the UN Secretary means "You."

Perception can be a deceiving enemy. It is "perceived" that just because you live near a river you will be flooded. Residents in Jersey County who lived along the Illinois River in a levee protected area were flooded in 1993 for the first time in nearly 90 years. Since the building of the levee in the early 1900s, it has protected thousands of acres and homes from the Illinois River.

The other 89 years, people happily lived there and raised families and food for your table on the richest soil in the nation, Illinois bottom land. Now it is under the threat of becoming a corridor of wetlands.

Property owners were safe for almost 90 years but they can no longer build on their property in the protected Illinois River area. Do they say, "Remove all structures where there has been a tornado or hurricane because it might happen again?"

Millions of tax dollars were spent following the flood of 1993 to buy out hundreds of homes which had been flooded. Where farmsteads and settlements once stood, is now covered over with corn and bean fields with a rare indication families had ever lived there. The earth is extremely resilient.

Rural cleansing is at work. Jersey County received a letter from Anthony S. Lowe, Administrator of the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration telling the county they have approximately 20 structures violating the Floodplain Management Ordinance and the county will lose their federally subsidized flood insurance. This would cause 142 policy holders who have met flood requirements to lose their insurance.

Do they deny tornado or hurricane insurance on everyone's property just because a few neighbors do not meet tornado and hurricane standards? Do the structures in question have little or no value? Are they not worth insuring in the first place?

Granted, there have been major abuses with flood insurance. City dwellers with fishing cabins habitually collect on their flood insurance and have made a racket out of doing so. Common sense asks a question, why did the government repeatedly payoff for fishing cabins which were not a primary residence?

Could this all have anything to do with what Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center meant when he wrote about corridors?

DeWeese said corridors will be cleared of residents by taking away their flood insurance. People will be afraid to live in an area where they cannot carry the insurance even though they hope never to use it. They can't afford to take the risk and the area will be cleared automatically.

Most rivers are protected with a lock and dam system. Dams hold back water to prevent flooding downriver. They also provide pools for recreation, provide municipal drinking water and preserve water in drought times. Think of it this way -- without them, there would be severe flooding downstream. The control of holding the water back in high precipitation times is extremely important for preservation purposes. In dry years, the water would run right on out to the gulf, leaving many local municipalities high and dry with no water.

There are environmental attacks on almost every river in Illinois. Environmentalists want to remove the dams on the Fox River and the Sierra Club has been accused of using false statistics to accomplish their goal on the Fox.

Residents on the Snake River in the Columbia Basin in the Washington/Oregon area went through a similar battle, but common sense prevailed and as of this writing, they have chosen to leave the dams in place. A new situation has now developed on the Snake River preventing the Corps of Engineers from doing much needed dredging on the River.

Farms and residents along the Kankakee and Kaskaskia Rivers right here in Illinois are also fighting battles. Farmers along the Kaskaskia River feel their only way out is to let the government place a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program attachment on their property deed. This is another land control measure, as this property will never again be returned to the owner although the owner will continue to pay property taxes forever and ever.

Judy Barr Topinka is absolutely correct when she says, "Power is water."

The question is, who will have the power, and what will they do to keep it?


Joyce Morrison lives in Jersey County, Illinois. She is a chapter leader for Concerned Women for America and she and her husband, Gary, represent the local Citizens for Private Property Rights. Joyce is Secretary to the Board of Directors of Rural Restoration/ADOPT Mission, a national farm ministry located in Sikeston, MO. The group's SOWER Magazine features Joyce's writing. Joyce is an activist and serves as a member of the agricultural advisory board of U.S. Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL).