Dead Dog Creek Stream Restoration

Reduces Pollution in Lake Michigan

Eroded stream banks are being restored to reduce nutrients and sediments in Lake Michigan.

Description

The Illinois Beach State Park in northeastern Illinois is one of the last relatively undeveloped stretches of Lake Michigan shoreline between Chicago and Milwaukee. Extending about a mile from the lakeshore, the area is dominated by dune ridges and swales, and houses a unique and diverse array of species. Stormwater runoff picks up sediment high in phosphorous, nitrogen, and other pollutants from the fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals used in the residential area; the sediment and pollutants flow into Dead Dog Creek, which introduces them to Lake Michigan and its surrounding wetlands. This has threatened the health of an area that is not only geologically and biologically unique, but whose resources have amplified importance to Illinois, given the state’s relatively small proportion of the Lake Michigan watershed. Thanks to two grants from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission is attempting to address these issues. Crews have been restoring stream channels, banks, and riparian areas along Dead Dog Creek. Several areas along the stream bank have seen significant erosion, resulting in 25- to 35-foot bluffs. These bluffs were stabilized and repaired by installing rocks at the base of the riverbanks, and then compacting soil on top of these rocks to form a gradual slope. Riffles were installed to restore the natural conditions of the streambed. At every step, care was taken to ensure the aquatic wildlife was unharmed. Any disturbed areas along the banks were seeded with both a cover crop and a seed mix of native plants following construction to establish a root system that will hold the new soil together. The crew also installed a stormwater bioretention basin above the restored bluffs to redirect stormwater and prevent future erosion.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Severe stream bank erosion
  • Discharge of sediment
  • Pollutants into Lake Michigan

DEAD DOG CREEK RESTORATION

Dead Dog Creek after restoration.

A section of Dead Dog Creek in Winthrop Harbor, IL, following restoration efforts. Photo credit: Lake County Stormwater Management Commission.

Results and Accomplishments

The project has repaired severely eroded stream banks, including several 25-to-35 foot bluffs, restored the natural streambeds and channels, restored riparian areas, and created a bio-retention basin to redirect stormwater and reduce future erosion. Once complete in the summer of 2014, the project is expected to annually prevent 73 pounds of phosphorous from flowing into Lake Michigan, which will improve the quality of the water relied on by humans, fish, and wildlife throughout the watershed. The highly visible nature of this project has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the local community and strengthened the working relationship between the agency and the village, making it very valuable from an ongoing stewardship standpoint.

Dead Dog Creek before restoration

A section of Dead Dog Creek in Winthrop Harbor, IL, prior to restoration efforts. Photo credit: Lake County Stormwater Management Commission.

Dead Dog Creek during restoration

A section of Dead Dog Creek in Winthrop Harbor, IL, during restoration efforts. Photo credit: Lake County Stormwater Management Commission.