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Dead Dog Creek Restoration
|Project Summary: Eroded stream banks are being restored to reduce nutrients and sediments in Lake Michigan.|
Project name: Dead Dog Creek Restoration.
Location: Winthrop Harbor, IL, right at the WI border on Lake MI.
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. The area also has multiple ravines that were formed by glacial deposits and are all tributary to Lake Michigan. When it rains, stormwater flows into these ravines; the steep slopes of the ravines accelerate the stormwater velocity, causing varying degrees of erosion. Erosion can deplete an area of productive soil, as well as any plants and seeds within it. The soil is deposited into aquatic environments, and can inundate wildlife habitat and reduce the ecosystem’s productivity by blocking out sunlight. In residential areas, erosion can also weaken the foundation of homes, causing great amounts of property damage. In the Village of Winthrop Harbor, located just upstream of the park, there is a severely eroded ravine that is tributary to Dead Dog Creek. 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 bio-retention basin above the restored bluffs to redirect stormwater and prevent future erosion. Phase I of this project was completed in the fall of 2012, and Phase II (operating further downstream) is expected to be completed in the summer of 2014. So far, the results from Phase I have been promising, as the repaired areas have remained stable and are not continuing to erode. Once complete, the project is expected to prevent 67 tons of sediment and 73 pounds of phosphorous from flowing into Lake Michigan each year.
Approximate cost of project: $1,518,251, most of which was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Stormwater Management Commission provided around $10,000.
Resource challenges addressed: Severe stream bank erosion, the discharge of excess sediment and pollutants into Lake Michigan and its surrounding wetlands.
Key partners (public and private): The Village of Winthrop Harbor, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Conservation Land Stewardship, Inc.
Types of jobs created: Heavy equipment operators, drivers, and general laborers.
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.
Originally Published March 28, 2014.