BEARDSTOWN – A plan to remove trees from the Beardstown harbor has prompted a local woman to start a petition drive to save the trees, which she says provide habitat for wildlife.

BEARDSTOWN – A plan to remove trees from the Beardstown harbor has prompted a local woman to start a petition drive to save the trees, which she says provide habitat for wildlife.


Local officials say they know some people want the trees to stay, but they have been ordered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove the trees. If the trees aren’t cut down, they say, insurance rates for people living in the Illinois River floodplain could skyrocket.


Christy Bley, the petition drive’s sponsor, says the trees are an important part of the Beardstown Marina.


“The eagles are roosting there,” Bley said. “There are all kinds of birds there. But also, this is our levee. The trees are what is holding it together.”


Dave Parish, chairman of the Cass County Board and president of the Beardstown Regional Flood Prevention District, said the Corps of Engineers formerly was responsible for levee maintenance, but has passed that responsibility to local jurisdictions.


“After Katrina, the corps didn’t want to be responsible for maintaining the levee,” Parish said.


Under the new system, the corps establishes the rules, and it’s up to local jurisdictions to meet those standards.


If the standards aren’t met, the cost of insurance for people in the floodplain would increase sharply, Parish said. People who don’t buy insurance wouldn’t receive federal assistance if a flood occurred, he added.


“It would mean everyone would have to buy insurance at five times the rate. That would be devastating the city, the real estate business and the economy,” Parish said.


Seven trees have been removed, so far. Another 25 are likely to be removed.


Bley argued that when a tree is cut down, the underground roots begin to rot.


“The roots die. They become porous, and water goes through them. They are actually harming the levee by taking those trees out,” Bley said.


Parish acknowledged that there are two schools of thought when it comes to trees on levies.


“It’s very debatable as to whether the trees harm the levies or hold the levies,” Parish said. “If the corps says they need to come off, then we have to take them off to get certified, It’s that simple.”


Anyone who wants to help Bley with her petition can e-mail her at: artrebels@casscomm.com.


 


John Reynolds can be reached at (217) 788-1524.