ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Chicago Rockford International Airport announced Thursday it would capitulate to the demands of environmentalists and pause construction of a planned expansion, and will redesign the project to spare the Bell Bowl Prairie.
The Natural Land Institute filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday seeking an injunction against the airport.
Advocates say the construction work threatens a small patch of prairie on RFD’s grounds which is home to endangered bee species and rare plants.
On Thursday, the airport authority said it will consult with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and US Fish & Wildlife Services in the redesign.
“During the coming months, we will continue to work with the FAA, IDNR, and the USFWS to ensure the project continues and we can plan and develop in compliance with the Federal and state regulations for the endangered species,” said Zack Oakley, the Deputy Director of Operations and Planning at RFD. “The FAA is reinitiating consultation under the Endangered Species Act with the USFWS to evaluate impacts to the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, so planned construction initially scheduled to continue on November 1 will be suspended until further consultation is completed. We anticipate the resumption of the project in the spring of 2022.”
The $50 million airport expansion project is expected to create hundreds of construction jobs, and generate 600 permanent jobs at the airport.
“I applaud the decision by the Rockford Airport Board of Directors to temporarily pause construction on its expansion. I now urge the board to have meaningful dialogue with all parties that takes into account the area’s natural resources, as well as the economic impact of the expansion,” said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara