Rockford airport taking serious action in Bell Bowl threat

Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 6:25 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - “Over the past few months, the airport has worked to develop and ultimately submit a Biological Assessment to the FAA,” a spokesperson for the Chicago Rockford International Airport said Monday.

Since fall 2021, the airport has battled claims that it’s $50 million cargo expansion project is putting money before the environment.

The expansion project was originally slated to wipe out the Bell Bowl Prairie, an important, endangered ecosystem. But the airport says they have chosen to make adjustments to the project in an effort of compromise, including investigating the potential effects of the cargo expansion on the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee that was reported at the airport, said Zack Oakley, Deputy Director of Operations and Planning at RFD.

Oakley says the Biological Assessment concluded the expansion project “may affect or likely to adversely affect the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee,” and in compliance with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) RFD has initiated formal consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The FAA has reviewed and summited RFD’s assessment to the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).

According to the airport, the $50 million expansion project is significant for the region, and is expected to create hundreds of construction jobs, generate up to 600 permanent new jobs at the airport, and facilitate continued growth. In order to compete with airports like O’Hare, Midway, Madison and Milwaukee, RFD needs to be able to create skilled jobs in aviation, transportation, logistics and construction.

In order to keep what the airport has created and promised over the past 18 months, including 1,000 new jobs, they need the new $50 million international cargo center.

The opposition says they’re not against the project, just the area the project builds through.

“I’m sure that there could be some state money that could support a redesign of the road and the engineers who work for the airport are very competent engineers and I’m sure they could redesign a road if they’re given direction by their client,” said Natural Land Institute Executive Director Kerry Leigh.

The airport wants the cargo expansion because there are tons of moving parts- UPS, a huge contract with Amazon and competition with bigger airports. They say the more cargo we can bring in, the more money everybody gets, supposedly.

They’re expecting the consultation to be completed later this fall.

If you would like to help save Bell Bowl Prairie, a link to their website can be found here.

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