[JULY 23, 2005] SPRINGFIELD -- Widespread rainfall was welcome
throughout Illinois last week but did not alleviate drought
conditions throughout much of the state. Members of Gov. Rod R.
Blagojevich's Drought Task Force met Friday to report on current
conditions and analyze the impact of the drought across Illinois.
The Blagojevich administration is reviewing damage reports from
Illinois counties, as the governor prepares to officially ask the
federal government Monday to declare Illinois a disaster area.
"Hurricane Dennis brought much-needed rain to our state, but it
simply wasn't enough to turn our situation around,” Blagojevich
said. “Our farmers are still facing a great amount of damage to
their crops, and now the hot, dry temperatures seem to be coming
On Monday, the United States Department of Agriculture
State Farm Service Agency will have an emergency board meeting in
Illinois. During the meeting, the board will review Illinois' damage
assessment report. After it reviews the report, the governor will
request the federal government to declare Illinois a disaster area.
A declaration would allow farmers to apply for low-interest loans
through a series of programs offered by the USDA. A farmer may be
able to borrow up to 100 percent of actual production or physical
losses, not exceeding $500,000.
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, there
has been a strong difference in precipitation from north to south
over the last two weeks. Southern Illinois enjoyed above-normal
rainfall while far northern Illinois (north of I-80) was dismally
dry. NASS reports that Illinois appears to be most seriously
affected from an agricultural standpoint, with 55 percent of its
corn and 36 percent of its soybeans reported in poor or very poor
"The numbers reported by NASS could be devastating to Illinois
farmers who are used to producing some of the best crops in the
nation year after year," agriculture director Chuck Hartke said. "We
can't make it rain, and we can't undo the damage that Mother Nature
has done, but the governor has made it very clear he will do
whatever is in his power to help the farmers recover."
Although Illinois agriculture seems to be in the most critical
condition right now, the governor's Drought Task Force has been
monitoring all areas affected by the drought since their last
meeting two weeks ago. During the July 7 task force meeting the
Illinois State Water Survey expressed concern that if Illinois did
not receive sufficient rains, the lakes and rivers would be
"Overall, we find that water levels are still down in the three
major rivers serving the state: the Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio,"
said Derek Winstanley, chief of the Illinois State Water Survey.
"These fluctuations contribute to the potential for fish kills
and danger to boaters during low-flow conditions."
Due to extended dry conditions in much of the state, the Illinois
Environmental Protection Agency says Illinois residents should
continue to use water conservatively during the hot summer months to
try to prevent serious water shortages in the near future.
"The principal problem for public water supplies continues to be
outdoor home and business water consumption, such as lawn watering,”
said Roger Selburg, manager of the IEPA Division of Public Water
Supplies. “This makes it increasingly difficult for communities to
meet the additional demands consumers are placing on their
Illinois State Fire Marshal J.T. Somer urges people in
drought-affected areas to be especially careful with open flames.
"When conditions are as dry as we're seeing right now, it doesn't
take much to start a fire," Somer said. "People need to use extreme
caution with cigarettes, outdoor grills, trash burning. Even parking
their cars over dry grass or weeds could spark a fire."