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$1.3M for Sterling riverfront coming from state

Quinn visits; city also receives $900,000 environmental grant

STERLING – Gov. Pat Quinn made a stop in Sterling Saturday to award the city a $1.3 million grant to revitalize the riverfront and add green infrastructure.

Sterling is one of 13 communities across the state that will receive funds through the Illinois EPA Green Infrastructure Grants program. The program aims to reduce the amount of pollution that enters the state’s waterways.

Quinn made the announcement near the old National Manufacturing Co. building and the Rock River.

“We believe in water in Illinois and we believe in taking good care of our water,” Quinn said. “And it’s important the land along the water is done in a way that prevents pollution, wherever possible, from getting into our water.”

Sterling will use the money to fund the first two phases of the Green Infrastructure Revitalization project, which has a total price tag of $2,181,735. With the state grant, the city will be responsible for $851,463.

The project will attempt to revitalize the former Northwestern Steel & Wire brownfield site and develop an eco-tourism destination along the Rock River, according to a news release.

The Sterling project includes a wetland and pond complex to improve water quality, 9 acres of natural landscape restoration, 3,000 square feet of publicly accessible green roofs, and more than 4,500 square feet of grass or bio swale, among other elements, the release said.

Grants were awarded to 13 communities for a total of $5,697,363, with Sterling’s share being the highest. The second highest was the Village of Oak Park, which received $763,327.

Sterling’s grant, the project and a revitalization of the riverfront is a step toward bringing jobs back to the area, said state Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale.

In all, 28 communities submitted applications for the grants, said Lisa Bonnett, the director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

“[Sterling] put together a development plan that is really robust,” she said. “And they’ve involved the community – their outreach and their stakeholder groups and the work that they’ve done to bring us to this point. ... It just made sense to make this investment because of what the community is invested in and the community leaders brought to this project.”

State Rep. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, called the grants a “down payment” on the future and emphasized the role of the Rock River as something to unite the area, not divide it.

Both Sterling Mayor Skip Lee and Rock Falls Mayor Bill Wescott attended the event. Lee spoke and said that the amount of money Sterling received showed that Quinn’s office cares about more than just Chicago.

Of the 13 communities receiving grant money, only Sterling and Springfield aren’t in Chicago or its suburban area. The 15 communities that applied for but didn’t receive grant money weren’t listed in the news release.

Other communities receiving grants were Springfield, Chicago Public Schools, Buffalo Grove Park District and Midlothian, among others.

The projects included building porous parking lots, installing rain barrels and rain gardens, Quinn said.

Sterling also received $900,000 from Quinn’s Mud to Parks program, which will help transfer 60,000 cubic yards of dredged material from Fox Lake to be used to cover the brownfield site.

A representative from U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos’ office also attended the event.

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