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GRHA Fights Wellfield Proposals on Whistling Wings Duck Club and 100-Year Floodplain

There is nothing more important than clean water, which is the reason clean water is part of Great Rivers Habitat Alliance mission:

Protecting the 100-year Confluence floodplain for the benefit of wildlife, historic waterfowling, agriculture, clean water and people.

Clean water will always be a sensitive topic and GRHA certainly understands the importance and dilemma facing the City of St. Charles and their efforts to solve their drinking water contamination issues. However, building new wells and potentially a treatment plant on Whistling Wings duck club and/or anywhere in the 100yr floodplain is not the answer.

GRHA received disappointing news in early December of the City of St. Charles’ plan to solve the drinking water issues by relocating their drinking water well field on the Whistling Wings Duck Club property.  That plan was made even more disappointing as they planned to disregard the Conservation easement and use eminent domain to acquire the necessary property. St. Charles plan was to create a well field right down the middle of this well-known, critically important and protected wildlife property. According to Christine M. Douglas, Right of Way Specialist for the City of St. Charles they planned to drill seven wells with 100x100 foot concrete pads and infrastructure sixty-five feet tall. The property once owned by Mo Buder, who left the property to Ducks Unlimited after his passing was enrolled into a Conservation Easement by Mo in 2004.

Commercially developing the Whistling Wings property would destroy the covenants of the Conservation Easement and its intended purposes to protect in perpetuity the inviolate refuge, critical migratory habitats and protection from development. It is exactly why Mo put the property in a Conservation Easement. The property and its refuges have been a centerpiece of the Confluence and an oasis for migratory birds for more than fifty years.

GRHA worked with Ducks Unlimited staff, including General Council, Dave Marrone to fight this action. GRHA offered our assistance and immediately went into action. Being the local entity, our Board is well positioned with existing relationships in St. Charles to reach out immediately, make the city aware that we would fight and begin discussions on solutions.

Working with Mayor Dan Borgmeyer, it appears the city understands our intentions to oppose this project and is now looking for alternative locations. Howard Weber (Whistling Wings Club Manager) let us know on 12/19/22 that he had been contacted by the city and notified the survey crew scheduled for the following morning had been cancelled. We are pleased with that movement but will continue to monitor the situation and reiterate our vehement opposition to anything in the 100-year floodplain.

We followed up conversations with a formal letter to Mayor Borgmeyer as has Ducks Unlimited and Wetlands America Trust.

We are confident the city now understands that choosing the Whistling Wings site was a mistake, our intentions to fight and if they want to get anything done in the near term without litigation, they need to look outside the 100-year floodplain.

We are hopeful these actions will have saved everyone a lot of time and expense with the same ultimate outcome.

It is important to understand, the integrity of the Conservation Easement program is paramount to GRHA’s mission. If we allow the purpose, intention and trust between landowner and conservation to be broken it will mean the end of the Conservation Easement program in the Confluence. This precedent would have national implications as well!

GRHA has been behind that purpose and was the catalyst and leadership foundation from the very first Conservation Easement in the Confluence and continues to support the program currently managed by DU. As stewards of the Confluence, GRHA feels obligated to protect and will not allow the trust and sanctity of the easement program to be lost.

We are so strongly behind the DU Conservation easement program and partnership that in 2022, GRHA made a new commitment to that partnership by agreeing to help cover portions of due diligence costs in an effort to assist local landowners and increase uptake of the easement program.

We want to thank you all again for your continued support!  We assure you we will continue to watchdog this and other issues in the Confluence. It is critical that we protect the purpose of these easements at all costs. If we lose this battle, a precedent will be set not only to undermine the protection of the Confluence, which we have worked so diligently together, but conservation of lands across North America.

We will keep you informed of any new developments and when your services may be needed.

UPDATE: The EPA has scheduled a community meeting to discuss groundwater contamination in St. Charles. The meeting is at the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Parish on Thursday, Feb. 23. The session will begin at 6 p.m. with a formal presentation held at 7 p.m. GRHA will be in attendance.

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