SPRINGFIELD -- Scientific services ranging from carbon sequestration to pre-road-building archaeological surveys to monitoring of the West Nile virus are in jeopardy due to a funding snafu.
SPRINGFIELD -- Scientific services ranging from carbon sequestration to pre-road-building archaeological surveys to monitoring of the West Nile virus are in jeopardy in Illinois due to a funding snafu.
The state's five scientific surveys have been operating without state funding — about one-fifth of their annual budgets — since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.
The oversight is considered to be “unfinished business” left over from the end of the legislative session.
The University of Illinois, where the surveys are based, is picking up the slack until the funding can be secured, possibly during the fall veto session.
The Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois State Water Survey, Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois State Archaeological Survey and Illinois Sustainable Technology Institute last year shared a state appropriation of $15.8 million.
Collectively, the scientific surveys are known as the Prairie Research Institute.
Counting grants and contracts, the institute’s total budget is $75 million, according to spokeswoman Libby Johnston.
About 700 people work for the surveys.
Ran out of time
Gary Miller, the institute’s associate executive director, said that when the surveys were moved from under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to the U of I in 2008, the appropriation was put in a different bill so it didn’t look like the university had gotten a funding increase.
“Our funding is in the budget implementation bill,” Miller said. “It’s complicated. I’ve been in state government 26 years, and I’d never heard of (the budget implementation bill) until two years ago.”
Miller said the House and Senate disagreed this spring over some items in the bill.
“The disagreement was not over our funding,” he said. “They just ran out of time to resolve all those issues in that bill.”
Miller said Gov. Pat Quinn’s staff and legislators involved have assured the university the problem will be fixed.
“We were not singled out,” he said. “There is no issue with our funding.
“Right now, the university is covering us. We’re not panicked.”
However, given the uncertainty, Brian Anderson, chief of the Illinois Natural History Survey, said he is concerned that scientists might leave the survey for other jobs.
“We’ve got world-class scientists that are getting job offers,” he said. “It is a possibility that is making me uneasy.”
Miller said there are discussions about moving the surveys back into regular budget channels.
“That’s one option under consideration,” he said. “That could happen.”
Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.
State scientific surveys
*Illinois State Geological Survey
The storage of carbon produced by the burning of fossil fuels is a growing issue.
“We do the science for the carbon-sequestration projects in the state of Illinois,” said Gary Miller, associate executive director for the Prairie Research Institute.
Currently, the survey is working on a demonstration project at the Archer Daniels Midland ethanol plant in Decatur. Carbon gas is pumped up to two miles underground and stored in a liquefied form under layers of protective rock.
Survey scientists help install and test equipment. They also monitor the surrounding environment. State geologists evaluate sites for their suitability and capacity.
“In particular, the geology of Illinois is well suited for carbon sequestration,” Miller said.
*Illinois Natural History Survey
Considered the stewards of the state’s biological memory, the INHS dates back to 1858.
“In terms of the economy and the state, we’ve got 60 years of aerial survey data — one of the best data sets in the world on waterfowl,” said Brian Anderson, INHS chief. “Waterfowl hunting is an economic boon to that part of the state along the Illinois River.”
The survey also is studying the ability of Asian carp to survive in Lake Michigan, looking at the effects of climate on natural areas, helping guide efforts to stem the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer and monitoring West Nile virus.
*Illinois State Water Survey
The ISWS was formed in the 1890s to help combat water-borne infectious diseases, such as typhoid and cholera.
Over the years, the survey’s mission has encompassed protection of the drinking water supply, groundwater and atmospheric science.
The survey has 100 years of water and climatic data.
*Illinois State Archaeological Survey
“The surveys, including the archaeological survey, are working with the Illinois Department of Transportation, using $10 million in federal funds, to go in ahead of construction projects to look for wetlands, threatened and endangered species, geological hazards, archaeological resources,” Miller said.
“We take care of those issues so roads can be routed for the least impact and those projects can go forward.”
The survey is conducting excavations in the East St. Louis area before a new bridge for Interstate 70 is built over the Mississippi River. It is the largest archaeological excavation currently under way in the U.S.
*Illinois Sustainable Technology Center
The ISTC has undergone name and mission changes almost as fast as technology has changed since 1984, when the center was founded.
Formerly known as the Waste Management and Research Center, the ISTC primarily helps businesses reduce waste and pollution prevention. Assistance also is available for companies that want to improve energy efficiency, reduce water use and use resources more efficiently.
The center also conducts research into waste-management issues.