News Feature | July 16, 2015

Dragonfly Preservation Means Red Tape For Water Utility

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

A water utility in Illinois is facing new regulations because state and federal officials want to protect an endangered species of dragonfly.

Regulators are “limiting where Lockport engineers can dig for public water wells because an endangered dragonfly species has a home in the city,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

Some city officials are frustrated with the crackdown. Alderman Darren Deskin said, per the report, "I don't see how a dragonfly on an island in the Des Plaines River stops us from digging for water throughout the entire city.”

Mayor Steve Streit expressed similar frustrations. “[He] said he'd like to know where state and federal officials would stand if it came between the dragonfly and people having access to drinking water,” according to the report.

“He said he'd like to invite members of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and any state or federal elected representatives to defend their stance at a public meeting in Lockport,” the report said.

The dragonfly in question is the Hine’s emerald dragonfly. It was believed to be extinct by the middle of last century, according to the federal government. But in the late ‘80s it was rediscovered in the Des Plaines River valley.

That’s creating complications for city officials, who want to dig water wells in the area. City officials are commissioning a “future water supply report, but preliminary findings were disheartening because of the restrictions aimed at protecting the dragonfly,” according to the Tribune.

How rare is the dragonfly? In 2010, the Tribune interviewed a professional photographer on her lengthy quest to photograph the insect.

"They are extremely rare and really hard to find," said Carol Freeman, who focuses her work on nature in Chicagoland.

“To find the endangered Hine's emerald dragonfly, she went out looking along the Des Plaines River near Lockport every other week during the summer flight season. It took her three years,” the report said.

For similar stories, visit Water Online’s Regulations and Legislation Solutions Center.