• Tricia Babischkin

Well Water, River Water, Lake Water

At the last board meeting we had, July 28th, Phil invited me to take the same irrigation tour that he took board members on to convince them of the need for a irrigation well for RedTail. As I said here, I took him up on the invite and we had planned to tour last Thursday. Phil canceled the appointment, and I've been trying to reschedule, but as of this morning, I've not gotten a response to any of my emails. I'm guessing that he doesn't want to walk the irrigation system with me given my support of Chief Richardson and may be concerned that I would try to interrogate him -- in my last email, I specifically addressed this with a personal promise not to discuss the open investigation. But alas, still crickets.


So, without this tour, I'm forced to rely on documentation that has been provided to me to continue to look at this well. I had been told that a test well was being drilled by the end of July, I've not heard any update on the status or outcome of the test.


First, let's review what we know now:

  1. This well was not in the approved budget.

  2. There has been NO approved budget amendment to pay for the well.

  3. While RedTail has had an unusually strong year, it doesn't change that it still owes the General Fund in the nature of about $200K before it can rebuild the reserves it had a mere 3 years ago.

  4. The electric to run the well, has not been bid or estimated by anyone external to the village to my knowledge.

Now -- Let's take a look at some of the things that I've learned (and were known by both the CAO and Phil) recently with regard to the well and the plan.


On August 13, 2019, the minutes of the board meeting reflect the root cause of the low lake levels that lead to the emergency filling of Lake #4 was the failure to maintain the pumps that drive the water transfer system that is a requirement of the 2005 Water Agreement.


Between, August 13th and August 23, it appears that CAO Smith reached out to McHenry County Planning & Development Water Specialist, Scott Kuykendall, because he sent CAO Smith this email:



On August 27, 2019, there was a town hall style meeting to present a proposed solution to the dropping lake levels. At that meeting was a gentleman named, Steven Byers. The following day, he wrote the following email:


I was not at this town hall. I don't live on a lake (so I was unaware of all the lake drama), and I believe that I've been told that Phil called everyone who lived on a lake to present his plan. Note, that this report of the plan presented was that a well would be drilled to a depth of 300-400 feet. The approved, non-budgeted, well in June was listed at 150 feet. In fact, I have a copy of an email from Gary confirming that should they not find geology to support the well at 150' the project would be halted and capped at a cost of $2,500 to the village.



This is the part where I tell you that it had not even dawned on me to think about the environmental impact of this well. And as called out in the 4th paragraph of this email, I don't get the impression that I'm alone in this realization. The difference is that I learned this information in AUGUST of 2020, not August of 2019!!



Back to the post town hall email from Steve Byers (who isn't just 'somebody' -- he's the Natural Resources Specialist for Illinois Nature Preserves Commission) said that "At a minimum, the Village should initiate a consultation with INDR (IL Department of Natural Resources) and Illinois Nature Preserves Commission." On 9/4/19, he sends the following email -- in it, I see a mention of the Kishwaukee Fen Nature Preserve which is southwest of the the proposed well location. That preserve is likely dependent on the shallow ground water.



In the meantime, Gary was tasked to get the size requirements for this well. He reaches out to RedTail to get the irrigation numbers and it is estimated that during a drought RedTail runs 200 gallons/min for 10 hours! Now, looking at the record of the log from the sprinkle system, he doesn't appear to do that every day -- but when the sprinklers are run, it's about 193,000 gallons. This is a FAR different number than what was presented to the board at 88,000 gallons. (In the chart I saw, the yearly average was 112,000/day and in the draught months it is 155,000/day.)


The emails seem to flow back and forth through January -- and most of them are preparing for some type of study that would need to be done. Then in March this letter comes forward:




From this -- as recently as March, the plan had been to pump 100 gallons a minute. Why is that number important. Well, it appears that if you pump more than 70 gallons per minute, you have built a "high volume well" and that requires a geological study to prove that it will not damage the aquifer. So, the proposed alternative was to mention that perhaps multiple smaller and further spaced wells would be a better solution. The problem with that plan could be 1)do we own the land? 2)would those wells be able to pump into the lakes to provide "fresh water" for the lakes? 3)Was the cost of that even considered?


Finally, there is this little nugget from the documents that were delivered:


So -- where is this really going -- because we all know that the moving of water is seriously exciting, right? This is what happens when there's a lack of transparency in the process. There's nothing wrong with exploring an idea, changing plans, modifying the plan. But there are problems when half information and inaccurate information is shared.


We've been told:

  1. The well will pump 50/gallons a minute.

  2. This will likely be TRUE, because much more than that we could damage the aquifer. However, it appears the administration was unaware of this requirement as recently as March of this year.

  3. Even as recently as 7/28 in the board meeting, Phil was still quoting a 100/gpm rate for this well. If you want to hear it, go here and fast forward to 1:08:06 (1 hour, 8 minutes, and 6 seconds.)

  4. The well will ONLY be run in times of draught.

  5. This is likely UNTRUE, because in order to raise the lake levels to combat the draught, we need to start pumping NO later than June -- and possibly sooner, as we may not be able to pump in August/September if the drawdown on the well is too great.

  6. RedTail needs 88,000/day to water the course.

  7. This is understated, per the logs of the averages, over the course of the year, the daily average is 122,000, but in drought periods it goes up to 150,000+/day.

  8. The well will solve the algae and weed problems in the lakes.

  9. I don't know. I can't quite figure out how this one well that half the size the team said would be required is going to accomplish all that is being asked of it -- to irrigate the golf course, maintain the lake levels, and kill/remove the algae and weeds. I'm going with, it MIGHT improve things a bit, maybe.

What we haven't been told:

  1. Why is RedTail paying for this well? It appears that it was sold to the lake owning residents as a way to cut off the Kishwaukee water from the lakes. Isn't that what SSA #8 pays EAM to keep clean?

  2. Remember I asked Phil, if the ultimate goal of this well was to be able to remove the lake treatment from SSA #8 -- which I know would be a tax savings to him and his fellow SSA #8 members. His response was "YES"

  3. Is a single well in that spot off Loch Glen really the right answer, when there's at least one other opinion that the draw down could damage the shallow groundwater that the Fen Nature Preserve is dependent on?

  4. I see a note that there is a required McHenry County Health Department Permit for this well, has that been obtained along with the required study to go with it?

  5. What's the status of the test well that was supposed to be dug in late July?

  6. Finally, why now? We had low lake levels that threatened a fish kill 1 year as a direct result of Turnberry not maintaining their end of the water agreement. Why is it that failure on one party becomes a liability on the village for at least $20,000?

  7. Is it possible that this line in one of the emails is the key?

I think this means that the area near the Kishwaukee Fen Nature Perserve may be petitioned to be a Class III groundwater designation -- and since the Fen is dependent on shallow groundwater, it is possible that a well would not be allowed in the future if that designation happens prior to the well being dug. Either way, this well has some yellow if not red flags environmentally in addition to all the problems with it financially.


I keep saying this, and I'll continue to say it, we have in the course of a few short months of digging through publicly available documentation found so many issues in our village and truthfully, issues in open and honest communication in nearly every area of village government. I'm hard pressed to believe anything I've been told. In looking over these documents, in reading more about groundwater and aquifers than I thought possible, I've come to one conclusion -- why were NONE of these environmental concerns even mentioned? What is it that the administration is hiding? Had they said, "We had these questions and are addressing them this way..." it would be vastly different from reading 88 pages of documents all of which seem to read to me "Hey, guys, pump the brakes and let's make sure we don't damage the ground water in a Nature Preserve."


Transparency is all I'm asking for. Transparency isn't a sales pitch. Transparency isn't slowing down progress. Transparency is being open and honest with those whose money you are spending. And more you try to not be transparent, the greater the lack of trust in every single thing you say grows.


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