ICC OKs Ameren line across Douglas, Coles, Piatt counties

CHICAGO — The Illinois Commerce Commission has approved, with some changes, Ameren Transmission's proposed high-voltage transmission line across central Illinois.

UI scientists worried about cause of turtle deaths

DANVILLE — Wildlife veterinarian Matt Allender has been spending some extra time in Vermilion County parks this month after discovering several dead turtles that have tested positive for ranavirus.

"I'm still holding out hope that it's a random occurrence," said Allender, who is also a clinical assistant professor of comparative biosciences at the University of Illinois.

Environmental Almanac: A local food source is coming home to roost

On the chance you missed it, earlier this summer the Champaign City Council gave staff the go-ahead to revise the municipal code to allow residents to keep a certain number of hens at home. The change was motivated by a citizen effort led in part by Karen Carney, a longtime resident of the city, who also happens to be my longtime spouse.

Environmental concerns remain over coal-ash ponds

DANVILLE — It's been more than two years since Dynegy shut down its coal-fired Vermilion Power Station, but environmental concerns still remain at the idled facility's coal-ash waste ponds that were built next to the Middle Fork River, just upstream of Kickapoo State Park and other protected lands.

How to garden to attract hummingbirds

How glorious to catch a glimpse of true flights of fancy — pretty, petite, ruby-throated hummingbirds. Much like the butterflies, hummingbirds suffered through last year's drought. They need our help to rebuild their populations.

So I will set their table with a landscape of tasty flowers and feeders. It's up to them to find a mate and start dancing.

ICC members signal rehearing possible on Ameren line route

SPRINGFIELD — Two Illinois Commerce Commission members signaled Wednesday that consideration may be given to a rehearing on at least a portion of the proposed route for Ameren Transmission's high-voltage transmission line across Illinois.

The commission is scheduled to decide next Tuesday whether to adopt a draft order for the line, which would run from Quincy to Terre Haute, Ind.

Environmental Almanac: Turtle rescue yields surprise

Why did the turtle cross the road? Good question.

But the one that was headed north across University Avenue near Cunningham in Urbana during afternoon rush hour recently was fortunate that Sandra Mason noticed it when she did — then parked her car and ran back to grab it before it could be squashed by a less observant driver.

Monarchs mostly missing

Every summer, like seasonal clockwork, hundreds of monarch butterflies descend on the oh-so-alluring plants in Diane Schutz's garden in Catlin.

They cover her butterfly bush, their orange and black wings a stunning contrast to the dark fuchsia blossoms.

Sorting through the mystery of pesticide names

If someone offered you a contorted, sodium-chloride-encrusted, baked, ground-wheat product, would you accept it? Probably not, but if they said a "salted pretzel," their offer would be much more appealing. Names or phrases for items may be correct, but if they aren't in common usage, they can be as foreign as any second language.

Odor concerns hasten plans for rendering plant at Rantoul pork facility

RANTOUL — Construction of a $10 million rendering plant at Rantoul Foods pork processing facility could begin this winter and be completed by the fall of 2014.

Company officials outlined plans for the rendering plant at the Rantoul Village Board study session this week.