The Kaskaskia River and its watershed cover more than 10 percent of Illinois. Once a free-fl owing 235 mile-long waterway, the river—and its watershed— have been severely degraded by flood control structures, roads, navigation channels, and agricultural runoff. Today, just 700 acres of its wetlands are considered high quality, less than 1 percent of the total. Moreover, just 11 acres of high quality native prairie remains, a tiny fraction of what once existed.
In 1998, the Kaskaskia River was nominated under the American Heritage Rivers program, prompting several pre-existing groups to band together under the Kaskaskia Watershed Association (KWA). Concerned about the watershed’s condition and fearing that water use conflicts and population pressures would only intensify in the future, KWA, working as a consensus-driven board of directors, seeks to protect the watershed and balance navigation, recreation, water supply, conservation, sediment management, and other interests.
Examples of Key Partners
Kaskaskia Watershed Association, Inc., Lower Kaskaskia Stakeholders, Inc., Carlyle Lake Association, Inc., Original Kaskaskia Area Wilderness, Inc., Lake Shelbyville Development Association, Southwestern Illinois RC&D, Inc., Local, State, and Federal Agencies, Lake Associations, Soil/Water Conservation Districts, Mid Kaskaskia Coalition, Ilinois Farm Bureaus, OKAW River Basin Coalition, Sierra Club, Kaskaskia River Task Force, Kaskia-Kaw Rivers Conservancy, University of Illinois, Three Resource Conservation and Development Councils, Land Trust Alliance Midwest, sporting and recreational groups, The Nature Conservancy, Kaskaskia Biological Station, farming interests, Park & Recreation Districts, Trailnet, Illinois Conservation Foundation, County, City, Town, and Village Boards; Chambers of Commerce, Industrial and Economic Development groups, Tourism Councils, and Historical Society.
Results and Accomplishments
The Kaskaskia Watershed Association Technical Committee, made up of federal, state, and local agencies, advises the KWA board. KWA and Technical Committee accomplishments include:
• Developed a comprehensive watershed management strategy, the Kaskaskia River Watershed: an Ecosystem Approach to Issues & Opportunities, funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the
USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS); the report details more than 100 projects to improve business,
agriculture, natural habitat, human resources, hydrology, recreation, research, and citizen involvement.
• Established the Illinois Conservation 2000 Ecosystem Partnership, a funding source for grassroots partners to address
watershed issues; Illinois Department of Natural Resources provides technical and fi nancial assistance; in all, more than $6 million has been invested on 88 projects—$3 million from C-2000 and $3 million in matching funds.
• Applying to establish the USDA Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) on the Kaskaskia.
• Selected to participate in the Federal Lakes Recreation Demonstration Laboratory; U.S. Corps of Army Engineers
selected the watershed for a three-year University of Minnesota study to determine the non-economic benefi ts gained by users and communities.