Environment & Weather
Governor Quinn Announces Up to $13 Million in New Relief for Southern Illinois Communities PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Monday, 02 April 2012 12:43

Governor Secures State, Federal Resources to Help Southern Illinois Families, Businesses, and Local Governments Recover from Tornado

HARRISBURG – April 2, 2012. At the direction of Governor Pat Quinn, the heads of a number of state agencies today announced in Harrisburg up to $13 million of financial aid and construction projects to help families, businesses and local governments recover from the deadly tornado that ravaged several Southern Illinois communities on Feb. 29. The package put together at the Governor’s instruction includes reimbursements to local governments for some of their disaster-related expenses, road improvements, grants to help homeowners repair or rebuild damaged homes, and low-interest business loans to create jobs and help businesses recover.

“This assistance package offers real solutions for the long-term recovery effort in Harrisburg and other communities,” Governor Quinn said. “Recovery from this tornado won’t happen overnight, but these resources will help residents and businesses of hard hit areas in Southern Illinois begin to rebuild their lives.”

Following FEMA’s denial of assistance for people affected by the tornado on March 10 and denial of an appeal on March 21, Governor Quinn moved quickly to secure support for people and businesses through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). That request was approved the following day, and the SBA began meeting with people interested in the low-interest, long-term loans on March 23.

"In the weeks since the severe storms and tornadoes hit Southern Illinois in February and early March, I have met with representatives from federal, state, and local emergency management agencies to discuss the ongoing recovery efforts in Harrisburg, Ridgway and surrounding areas," said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL).  "I will continue to work with Governor Quinn and the Illinois Congressional Delegation to seek further opportunities for federal assistance to help these communities rebuild."

In addition to the SBA loans, the state’s multi-agency relief package includes:

  • Assistance from Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) – Up to $5 million from the Community Development Assistance Program (CDAP) will pay for public infrastructure improvements, housing rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. In partnership with Ameren Illinois, another $1 million from the Energy Efficiency Trust will fund energy efficiency incentives through Ameren’s Act on Energy program to benefit customers affected by the disaster. Additionally, DCEO will make as much as $750,000 in Workforce Investment Act grants available to cover wages for dislocated workers to participate in disaster cleanup and structured work-based learning.
  • Assistance from Illinois Finance Authority (IFA) - Up to $2 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD) business loans will be available through IFA under a relending in Gallatin, Saline and Williamson counties. Loans from a minimum of $50,000 up to a maximum of $250,000 may be used for the purchase of land, construction or renovation of an industrial or commercial building or purchase of machinery and equipment. The IFA will partner with local banks to market the program to local businesses hurt by the recent storms and tornadoes.
  • Assistance from Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) – Twenty-one municipal road improvements in Harrisburg will be completed at an estimated cost of $1.58 million.
  • Assistance from Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) – Reimbursements up to $1.5 million to affected local governments for some of their disaster-related expenses will be made through the state’s Disaster Response and Recovery Fund, which supports emergency response and recovery efforts.
  • Assistance from Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) – IHDA will commit up to $1 million in federal HOME Funds using the Single Family Owner Occupied Rehabilitation (SFOOR) Program. Up to $40,000 per household in forgivable non-payment loans will be made available to homeowners in affected areas. The funds can be used to build or renovate destroyed or damaged homes.
  • Delta Regional Authority – Governor Quinn secured $400,000 in federal funding to reimburse local governments for expenses related to debris removal.

“Ameren Illinois is delighted to partner with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to help make recovery a little easier for residents of the Harrisburg and Ridgway areas,” said Michael Moehn, Ameren Illinois senior vice president of customer operations. ”Through our ActOnEnergy® program and the Warm Neighbors Cool Friends Home Repair Program, residents will be able to receive the financial assistance they need to meet the highest energy efficiency standards as they repair and rebuild. This will allow them to save money today and in the years to come.”

Governor Quinn has directed his staff to continue to work with local, federal and non-governmental agencies to secure additional support for families in the affected areas.

This assistance package is in addition to nearly $1.4 million of in-kind state assistance already provided to the affected region. Shortly after the tornado stuck, Governor Quinn surveyed the damaged area and activated the State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the deployment of state resources and personnel in support of local response and recovery efforts. The state’s response included large deployments from IDOT, the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois State Police, as well as assistance from several other state agencies and mutual aid organizations.

“The state of Illinois has been a trusted partner with us since the day the tornado struck,” said Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg. “Recovery after a disaster of this magnitude isn’t easy. This state assistance package will give our recovery efforts a significant boost. I appreciate Governor Quinn’s continued commitment to helping our communities recover.”

Governor Quinn directed state officials to start developing the state assistance package immediately after the state’s request for FEMA assistance for individuals and subsequent appeal were denied. The administration has been exploring all possible opportunities to deliver relief and assistance to Southern Illinois’ impacted communities.

Additional information about the state’s response efforts is available at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.


Thursday, March 22 was World Water Day PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Jewish National Fund   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:38

Change Begins with a Drop

The best way to understand how important it is to maintain the world's water resources is to figure out how you fit into this global picture. Calculate your water usage.

That's the water you see directly. Water consumption you don’t see, known as virtual water, is the amount needed to create the foods we eat and the products we use. Like the amount of water farm animals drink, the water used to grow their feed, and the water needed to manufacture clothing. That adds up quickly.

Water scarcity, a worldwide concern, has been met head-on by Israel for years. Israel is a leader in desalination technology and water recycling, reusing 75% of its waste water every year—the highest rate in the world. Most of this water is used for agriculture, which saves scarce fresh water for human consumption. JNF's reservoirs and cutting-edge wetlands technology have increased Israel's total water supply by 12%. These techniques are shared with the countries around the world, helping to make it a better place.

Celebrate National Arbor Day by Planting Trees! Get 10 Free Shade Trees When You Join the Arbor Day Foundation PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Sean Barry   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:22

National Arbor Day is April 29 this year, and the best way to celebrate is by planting trees. The Arbor Day Foundation is making it easy for everyone to celebrate the tree planters’ holiday. Everyone who joins the Foundation in April will receive 10 free shade trees.

National Arbor Day and Iowa's Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April, which is April 29 this year.

By joining the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation in April, you will receive the following trees: red oak, sugar maple, weeping willow, baldcypress, thornless honeylocust, pin oak, river birch, tuliptree, silver maple and red maple. The free trees are part of the Foundation’s Trees for America campaign.

“These trees will provide shade in the summer and magnificent color throughout the fall,” said John Rosenow, chief executive and founder of the Arbor Day Foundation. “By the simple act of planting trees, a person can make a positive impact on the Earth and a deep, meaningful connection to nature. When you plant a tree, you’re giving a gift for future generations.”

The trees will be shipped postpaid at the right time for planting in April or May with enclosed planting instructions.  The 6- to 12-inch trees are guaranteed to grow or they will be replaced free of charge.

To become a member of the Foundation and receive the free trees, send a $10 contribution to TEN FREE SHADE TREES, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410, by April 30, 2012, or visit arborday.org/April.


Endangered Species Recovery Champions Announced PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Georgia Parham   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:18
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced recipients of the 2011 Recovery Champion award, which honors Service employees and partners for outstanding efforts to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species of fish, wildlife, and plants. Among the honorees is Dr. Carol Bocetti of the California University of Pennsylvania, who leads the recovery team for the endangered Kirtland’s warbler.

A total of 56 teams and nine individuals were honored as Recovery Champions for work to conserve species ranging from the polar bear in Alaska to the Appalachian elktoe mussel and spotfin chub in North Carolina.

“Recovery Champions are helping listed species get to the point at which they are secure in the wild and no longer need Endangered Species Act protection,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “These groups and individuals have done amazing work in helping to bring dozens of species back from the brink of extinction, while improving habitat that benefits many other species and local communities.”

Dr. Bocetti was recognized for her work with the Kirtland’s warbler, an endangered songbird found only in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario.  Dr. Bocetti’s  research and recovery initiatives have been a key factor in the growth of the warbler population from near record lows of  about 200 pairs during the mid-1980s to the current estimate of  more than 1,700 pairs, surpassing recovery goals.   Her research also documented the link between the size of jack pine stands – the warbler’s nesting habitat - and warbler productivity.

A member of the Kirtland’s warbler recovery team since 1998, Dr. Bocetti became the team leader in 2006. Working with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, the U. S. Forest Service, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others, she spearheaded efforts to develop a conservation strategy and commitment to managing habitat, a significant step toward recovery and long-term conservation of the species.

“Thanks to Dr. Bocetti’s leadership and dedication, Kirtland’s warblers are making strides toward recovery,” said Tom Melius, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest Regional Director. “That is a remarkable achievement for a species that was once on the brink of extinction.”

From the bull trout in Washington, Oregon, and Montana to the red-cockaded woodpecker in Florida, Alabama and Texas, Recovery Champions are taking action to benefit these species. Service employees and partners, including federal and state conservation agencies, tribes, universities, conservation organizations, private landowners, and zoos and botanic gardens, are making a difference through activities such as removing dams so that anadromous fish can reach their spawning grounds, restoring longleaf pine forests in the Southeast, and reintroducing an endangered bird species into its historical range.

For example, the Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF) is being recognized for its work in endangered species recovery programs over several decades. Numerous species across multiple states have greatly benefitted from TESF’s continued support over the years and are on the road to recovery thanks in large part to these efforts, such as the black-footed ferret, red-cockaded woodpecker, Chiricahua leopard frog and Northern Aplomado falcon.

Notably, the TESF has been active and supportive in gray wolf recovery in the United States, both in the Northern Rocky Mountains and in the Southwest. Since 1997, the Ladder Ranch Wolf Management Facility, located on R.E. Turner’s Ladder Ranch in south-central New Mexico and operated by TESF is one of the program’s three primary captive pre-release facilities and has been instrumental in housing and selectively breeding Mexican wolves for release to the wild.

Also this year, National Wildlife Refuges from Maine through Virginia are being honored for conserving more than 250 breeding pairs of piping plovers on refuge, state, municipal and private lands.

In the West, the Colorado Rare Plant Conservation Initiative, comprised of more than 22 organizations, after creating a strategy for needed actions such as best management practices for oil and gas development, is working with the industry to implement the practices.

And in an unusual accomplishment, a team of biologists, avian husbandry experts and veterinarians captured wild Nihoa millerbirds, insect-eating songbirds on the Hawaiian island of Nihoa, and translocated them to Laysan Island, restoring Millerbirds to the island after an absence of 100 years.

Restoring streams, releasing listed species into their historical ranges, and conducting field surveys and monitoring programs are among the diversity of initiatives by this year’s Recovery Champions. What began in Fiscal Year 2002 as a one-time award for Service staff members for achievements in conserving listed species was reactivated in 2007 and expanded to honor Service partners as well,  recognizing their essential role in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.

For information about the 2011 Recovery Champions, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/recovery-champions/index.html.

For more information about recovery efforts for the Kirtland’s warbler, visit www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered

America’s fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. To learn more about the Service’s Endangered Species program, go to http://www.fws.gov/endangered/

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfws, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwshq, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwshq.


In Iowa’s Interest: Staying Safe in Unpredictable Weather PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Environment & Weather
Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Friday, 23 March 2012 10:33

by Senator Tom Harkin

Earlier this month, tornadoes wreaked havoc is multiple Midwestern states. Most notably, small towns in Indiana, Kansas, and Kentucky were hit by monstrous storms that caused severe destruction. Seeing the aftermath of these storms, I was reminded of the risks that tornadoes and severe weather pose to small towns.

In 1993, I was chief sponsor of legislation greatly broadening what is now called the Federal Emergency Managements Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. The program and its more recent modifications have provided significant funding to states to undertake risk mitigation projects that help protect communities from future natural disasters. These investments help to improve the structural integrity of key infrastructure and buildings to enhance safety and reduce costly repairs that result from destructive storms, like flooding and high winds from tornadoes.

Knowing how to protect yourself and your family, however, during a storm is an absolute necessity. With the unusually warm and mild winter and an increase in severe storms already this spring, dangerous weather could hit Iowa earlier than normal.

Always remember that the safest place to be is in an underground shelter, basement or safe room. If no underground shelter or safe room is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.

Here are some further safety tips that can help to keep you and your family safe, provided by the National Weather Service:
• Go to the nearest sturdy building or shelter immediately.
• Do not wait until you see the tornado. If you are caught outdoors and cannot make it to a shelter, seek secure cover in a basement, shelter, or sturdy building.

If flying debris occurs while you are driving: pull over, park, and follow these instructions:
• Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows, covering it with your hands and a blanket if possible.
• If you can safely get lower than the level of the roadway, exit your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands.

Regarding mobile homes:
• Mobile homes are not safe during tornadoes or other severe winds.
• Do not seek shelter in a hallway or bathroom of a mobile home.
• If you have access to a sturdy shelter or a vehicle, abandon your mobile home immediately.

With these tips, I hope you all stay safe and secure whenever a storm is near.

For more information on safety during a severe storm, please visit the national weather service at www.weather.gov, my website at www.harkin.senate.gov, or feel free to call any of my offices in Iowa or Washington, D.C.

A PDF version of the column is available by clicking here.

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