Lower Kaskaskia Stakeholders salute Costello - Republic-Times | News

Lower Kaskaskia Stakeholders salute Costello

By on September 19, 2012 at 9:20 am

Georgia and retiring U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello receive a gift from the Lower Kaskaskia Stakeholders during a “Thanks for the Memories” event in his honor Friday night in New Athens. (Alan Dooley photo)

An event slated to take 300 well-wishers and retiring U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello (D-Illinois) out one more time onto the Kaskaskia River had to be changed twice to accommodate severe weather that swept through the region Friday evening.

Lower Kaskaskia Stakeholders Inc. had planned, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to take the group on a barge tour, pushed by a towboat to enable all to see developments on the Kaskaskia and recognize and remember the work of Congressman Costello.

But prudent planning first provided a plan B in the form of a large tent in New Athens adjacent to where the barge would have departed. Then on Friday afternoon, as threatening weather approached the area with hail, strong winds, rain and lightning, a plan C was implemented and the event was moved again to Machete’s Restaurant in New Athens.

What started as a delightful recovery from the weather challenge went south when, just as guests and the congressman and his family sat down to eat, the lights went out — and stayed out.

From left, Monroe County Farm Bureau manager Brenda Seboldt joins Brad Nobbe, Terry Liefer, Ed Weilbacher and George Obernagel as buffet line workers. (Alan Dooley photo)

But the event and participants drove on, finishing their meals and hosting speakers and Congressman Costello, lighted by a combination of small flash lights and cell phones. Event organizers tried to obtain candles from a nearby Dollar Store, but it didn’t have electricity and was closed.

Costello spoke without a sound system to a hushed crowd.  He told first of his family’s connection to the Kaskaskia, noting somberly that his brother had perished in an accident on that river. Since then, the family has seen better days, boating there often with his son, Jerry Costello II — who’s son, Jerry III, learned to water ski on the river.

Costello also told of his work over the years to support continued and expanded use of the Kaskaskia River.

He went on to compliment the LKSI and its cooperation with the State of Illinois and the Corps, calling it a model of regional cooperation that has brought countless benefits to the region and its citizens. He told how he has often educated fellow congressmen about how the river is not just an environmental gem or recreational asset, but, including commercial navigation, is indeed the economic engine of the region.

Turning from the successes on the river to Congress, which he will leave in January, Costello was very somber about today’s government in Washington. The congressman told how he has informed colleagues they have achieved a 12 percent favorable rating.

“We have earned it,” he said forcefully. “We can’t get anything done. When I went to Washington in 1988, we sat down and identified areas of agreement — and we used them as starting points to get things done.”

The congressman told how he hopes to get a Water Resources Development Act passed again this session, but said the odds of doing so are 50-50 in the current environment.

With his son, State Rep. Jerry Costello II, looking on, U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello (D-Belleville) discusses the importance of the Kaskaskia River.

He also said the threat of sequestration is very real and the impact of cutting $1.2 trillion from spending will be severe.  But he said we’d have to work together to reduce the pain as much as possible.

Finally, Costello said he and his wife, Georgia, intend to stay in southwestern Illinois.

“I am receiving some very attractive offers to remain in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “But our intent is to stay here and remain engaged in our home and see what we can do to make it a better place.”

The evening concluded with homemade ice cream and cookies — still in the dark — and rainy rides home for all.
The congressman was honored with several toasts, and he and Georgia were presented an engraved stone for their home. Costello was also named a lifelong honorary LKSI member.

(This article ran in the Sept. 12 Edition of the Republic-Times.)


Alan Dooley

Alan is a photojournalist -- he both shoots pictures and writes for the R-T. A 31-year Navy vet, he has lived worldwide, but with his wife Sherry, calls a rambling house south of Waterloo home. Alan counts astronomy as a hobby and is fascinated by just about everything scientific.