ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – It starts in your own backyard. Or, if you live here, on your own island.
That was the message delivered at Rock Island Arsenal’s Earth Day event, held April 21 at Memorial Park, where the RIA community came together to celebrate planetary home and engage. to do its part to protect and preserve the Earth and its natural resources.
Garrison Command Sgt. Major John Dobbins delivered the keynote address and introduced guest speaker, Ranger Mike McKean of the US Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi River Visitor Center, located on the Armory.
The theme for Earth Day 2022 is “Supporting the Mission. Secure the future. This nuanced statement reflects not only the global mission of everyday citizens taking the helm to protect the environment, but also the military facet of the national defense mission and aligning it with responsible stewardship of the environment.
It’s a dichotomy that’s not new to this historic arsenal, which celebrates its 160th anniversary this year, as many of its infrastructure initiatives and improvements must strike the delicate balance between military mission and planetary preservation, due from its location in the Mississippi River.
“Here at Rock Island Arsenal, we strive to care for not only a major river system that surrounds us, but also the shorelines of two Community Partner states, as well as every living thing that Mississippi supports,” Dobbins said. in its opening. remarks during the event.
With buildings dating back over 100 years, the challenge of renovating and modernizing is a priority. One of the biggest undertakings the island has seen was the switch from coal to gas and the demolition of the obsolete coal-fired power plant located along a main artery of the facility. With demolition underway, there is now a move to alternative energy initiatives, including solar power, to provide even cleaner energy sources at the arsenal.
“In our efforts to upgrade our infrastructure to more efficient and cleaner energy standards, we have switched from coal to natural gas and are in the process of demolishing and cleaning up our outdated heating plant,” Dobbins said. “We are also in the process of planning to increase the utilization of the hydroelectric plant by using dredging to increase hydroelectric capacity, as well as planning for additional energy resilience projects to support the installation.
These installation-level advancements and improvements are all part of the Army Department’s larger-scale commitment to environmental excellence, Dobbins said.
“Everything we do here on our island is tied to the broader, holistic environmental standards of excellence used around the world in facilities around the world,” he said. “These include comprehensive analyzes of military actions, highly technical planning of construction projects, environmental planning sessions for large-scale trainings and events, and impact assessments for real estate actions, among countless other factors that pave the way for the protection of our vital natural resources.
McKean said USACE’s responsibility at RIA along the Mississippi River extends nearly 314 miles and encompasses a broad environmental stewardship mission, including the task of making the river safer and navigable for vital region industry.
“What we do involves a lot of investigation – we look at what is invasive, how to improve habitats, taking what needs to be dredged and creating new habitats,” he said. “We are making the river more navigable, but we are also watching how things develop and what needs to be done.”
Part of their mission is to nurture native varieties of flora and fauna, which is why a team of four planted 5,000 trees last year alone, in an effort to maintain nature’s delicate balance. along the river. He said that while many people understand the basics, some don’t realize the vital role trees play in the environment.
“Trees are the lungs of the earth,” he said. “A tree processes 68 pounds of carbon and provides enough oxygen for four people a year, 70-80% of terrestrial species live in trees.”
Through a long-standing community partnership with Living Lands and Waters, a 501(c)(3) environmental organization headquartered in East Moline, Illinois, several varieties of native oak saplings were available for participants can take them away and plant them at home. McKean said if everyone does their part, the future for the environment is bright.
“Earth Day reminds us to plant a tree, but we should make every day ‘Earth Day,'” McKean said. “Each year alone, people in more than 190 countries perform more than a billion acts of stewardship, and we must all continue to do our part.”