There were fears Monday that lights would go out at Horseshoe Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area this week. And, other Illinois Department of Natural Resources sites are expecting the same fate in the near future.
Joey Thurston, the IDNR site superintendent at Horseshoe Lake, said he was told by representatives of the Southern Illinois Electric Cooperative that meters would be pulled Tuesday.
The loss of electricity will cause campgrounds at the park to shut down.
“We’ll lose everything except for the East Side campground which we can only keep open for so long because the water lines are so shallow,” Thurston said.
That report was disputed Monday afternoon by Chris Bennett, executive vice president and general manager of the coop.
"We have taken several calls last week as well as today from the 67 state accounts we serve and our response to all of them has been the same — no immediate plans to disconnect, but we're not saying how long we can go without a payment from the state," Bennett said in an email message.
The email noted the state is four months in arrears, five at the end of October.
Regardless, roads and boat ramps at Horseshoe Lake will remain open.
“We’ll still be here,” he said. “That’s my understanding. At what point, if something else gets cut off, I don’t know how well we’ll be serving the public, but we’ll do our best. We’ll run the check station with a generator.”
Fuel supplies have already been cut off to most sites in the deep south. Southern FS is the fuel supplier.
“There is no way you can blame them,” Thurston said of both companies. “It’s just strictly business. They feel bad. This isn’t something they want to do.”
Losing diesel supplies is particularly problematic for places like Horseshoe Lake and Mermet Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area. Those sites pump water into low-lying areas to create habitat for duck hunting. The South Zone duck season begins Thanksgiving Day.
“We were lucky,” Thurston said. “We filled up our tanks about a week and a half prior to that. I was pumping. When they cut the fuel off, I’ve been running my electric pumps. The diesel fuel I quit pumping with it until the first of Nov. Hopefully, I’ll be able to maintain it through the year.”
Despite the shortages, plans are to proceed with the waterfowl hunt.
“As of right now, we’re going to run a generator for lights to hold the draw,” Thurston said. “We’re conserving enough gas so that waterfowl season we’ll go as long as we can to keep hauling hunters out. The worst case scenario if our gas runs out; they can drive themselves out.”
At Mermet, site superintendent Chris McGinness said he expects to have electricity in the near term, but like everyone else, fuel supplies have been cut off.
McGinness said Mermet’s pumps have been running through the month. The walk-in and blind areas have been flooded, so ducks should have adequate habitat.
No other sites have received disconnect notices.
“They haven’t called me directly, but we’ve gotten disconnect notices for a couple months,” said Eric McCluskey, site superintendent at the Saline County, Sahara Woods and Cave-in-Rock sites. “When we went through the budget crunch 4-5 years ago, I took all the propane and fuel oil heat out and put in wood burners. That’s the thing that will kill us if they turn the power off.”
“As far as utilities, we haven’t heard anything official that something might be happening fairly soon,” said Joe Nelson, site superintendent for Ferne Clyffe, Tunnel Hill and Cache River. We contacted them today and they said they don’t have any immediate plans.”
On the other hand, Nelson said lack of diesel fuel has forced him to forego planned winter wheat plantings.
Calvin Beckmann, site superintendent at Giant City State Park, said the park was able to pay utility bills through Giant City State Park Lodge funds. On the other hand, fuel supplies are a concern.
“We have enough fuel to last us for several months,” he said.
Currently, Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park at Rend Lake is not being affected.
“My power is fine,” said site superintendent Ted Liefer. “I have two different power suppliers. As far as I know right now, I’m doing fine. I’m going day by day.
“As of right now, I have Wabash Valley for my fuel, so right now I’m OK. That could happen in the near future.”
The same holds true at Pyramid State Park.
“We have Egyptian Electric,” said site superintendent Cha Hill. “For the time being, I think we’re OK. I’ve talked to them. They are gracious enough to stick with us as long as they can. Nothing is going to happen immediately.”
Fuel is another story.
“We have what we have in the tanks, so that’s going to be it,” Hill said. “We are really conserving fuel.