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Rockford airport updating expansion project to avoid Bell Bowl Prairie

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Bell Bowl Prairie pic.png

The airport announced plans to redesign its expansion plans to avoid the prairie.

ROCKFORD (WREX) — The Bell Bowl Prairie is on the verge of being saved.

The Chicago Rockford International Airport announced it is in the process of redesigning a portion of its expansion project which will remove a detention basin that was originally planned in the Bell Bowl Prairie.

Additionally, construction that was previously on hold until November 1 will be suspended within the Bell Bowl Prairie until Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) consultation activities with the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) are concluded. 

In consultation with the FAA and USFWS, the capacity of the planned Bell Bowl Prairie detention basin will be replaced by other planned basins on RFD grounds.

“During the coming months, we will continue to work with the FAA, IDNR, and the USFWS to ensure the project continues and we can plan and develop in compliance with the Federal and state regulations for the endangered species,” said Zack Oakley, the Deputy Director of Operations and Planning at RFD. “The FAA is reinitiating consultation under the Endangered Species Act with the USFWS to evaluate impacts to the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, so planned construction initially scheduled to continue on November 1 will be suspended until further consultation is completed. We anticipate the resumption of the project in the spring of 2022.”

This $50 million dollar cargo expansion is estimated to create hundreds of construction jobs, generate up to 600 permanent new jobs at the airport, and facilitate continued growth of the region’s strength in worldwide international cargo operations.

On Tuesday, the Natural Land Institute filed a lawsuit against the Greater Rockford Airport Authority for injunctive relief to temporarily halt the bulldozers from destroying the remnant prairie.

The airport initially halted construction in August to protect the new discovery of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.

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Andy Carrigan is the Social Media & Digital Content Manager at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team as a photographer in 2016 after graduating from Northern Illinois University.

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