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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Illinois: Section 319 Success Stories, Vol. III

Begin Page Links Story 1  |  Story 2  |  State Water Quality Site Exit EPA Disclaimer  End Page Links Story Separation Bar Lake Pittsfield Project:
Ninety Percent Reduction in Sediment Loading Achieved

Scott Tomkins
Illinois EPA
Bureau of Water
P.O. Box 19276
Springfield, IL 62794-9276
217-782-3362 scott.tomkins@ epa.state.il.us
Primary Sources of Pollution:

agriculture (farming operations)
Primary NPS Pollutants:

Project Activities:

sediment-reducing practices (installation of water and sediment control basins, conservation tillage, integrated crop management, livestock exclusion, filter strips, terraces, wildlife habitat management)

90 percent reduction in sediment loading
Lake Pittsfield was constructed in 1961 to serve as a flood control structure and as a public water supply for the city of Pittsfield. Pittsfield is a western Illinois community of some 4,500 people. The Blue Creek watershed, a 7,000-acre watershed draining into Lake Pittsfield, is predominantly agricultural, consisting primarily of rotational corn and soybean cropland.

Sedimentation was a major water quality problem affecting Lake Pittsfield. Sediment from farming operations, gullies, and shoreline erosion had decreased the capacity of the lake by 25 percent over the past 33 years.

Project design

Based on a thorough analysis of lake problems and pollution control needs conducted under the Clean Lakes Program, project coordinators developed a strategy to reduce sediment transport into Lake Pittsfield. The keystone of the land management strategy was the construction of 29 water and sediment control basins (WASCOBs) throughout the watershed, including a large basin at the upper end of the lake. Funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Environmental Quality Incentive Project, Illinois's Conservation Practices Program, and the Illinois EPA 319 Program supported installation of additional sediment-reducing practices such as conservation tillage, integrated crop management, livestock exclusion, filter strips, terraces, WASCOBs, and wildlife habitat management. Land-based data and a geographic information system (GIS) were used to develop watershed maps of sediment sources and sediment yields.

Monitoring conducted

In 1994 the project was approved for the section 319 National Monitoring Program. Money has been approved until 2004, allowing monitoring to continue for 9 years past installation of the sediment retention basins.

The objective of the Lake Pittsfield section 319 project was to evaluate the effectiveness of WASCOBs in reducing sediment delivery into the lake. Water quality monitoring consisted of tributary sampling after rainstorms to determine sediment loads, pre- and post-project lake water quality sampling (104 Clean Lakes Phase I and II Assessments) at three lake sites to determine trends in water quality, and lake sedimentation rate monitoring to determine changes in sediment deposition rates and patterns.

Key successes and lessons learned

A 90 percent reduction in sediment loading to Lake Pittsfield was achieved through the installation of water and sediment control basins. The large sediment basin covering 147 acre-feet upstream of the lake was more effective, in general, than the smaller basins upstream. The effectiveness of the 29 smaller upland basins was dependent on watershed geology and basin position.

Stream stabilization of Blue Creek was an important component of the overall program to reduce sediment loading to Lake Pittsfield. Installing low stone weirs prevented further channel incision and mass wasting of streambanks.


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Story Separation Bar
Restoration of the Flint Creek Watershed:
Restoration Partnership Completes Multiple Project

Scott Ristau
Illinois EPA, Bureau of Water
P.O. Box 19276
Springfield, IL 62794-9276
scott.ristau@ epa.state.il.us
Primary Sources of Pollution:

land development


urban runoff
Primary NPS Pollutants:

Project Activities:

detention basin retrofit

wetland swale

sand filters

shoreline and streambank stabilization

stream corridor restoration

native plant installation

no impairments due to NPS pollution on 2000 Illinois Water Quality Report

The Flint Creek watershed covers approximately 28 square miles of Lake and Cook Counties in northeastern Illinois. The watershed includes several high-quality wetlands and lakes, as well as Flint Creek. The creek was listed in the Illinois Water Quality Report (1994–1995) as being impaired, in part, due to nonpoint source pollution from land development, channelization, and urban runoff. Problems in the watershed included shoreline erosion, streambank erosion, and debris blocking areas of the stream.

In spring 1996 the first of many projects using section 319 funding began in the Flint Creek watershed. The approach of the restoration partnership was to implement several projects to make a difference in the quality of water and aquatic habitats in the watershed. The planners also wanted to involve the community through information and education. The restoration partnership consisted of the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Village of Barrington, Village of Lake Zurich, Lake County Forest Preserve District, Good Shepherd Hospital, Natural Areas Ecosystem Management, Applied Ecological Services, and Citizens for Conservation, a local citizens group.

Urban runoff BMPs

The project involved retrofitting outdated practices and installing new practices to deal with urban runoff. One component involved retrofitting an outdated basin that was no longer effective at handling runoff. Different pools of water were created for settling, as well as a shallow marsh for filtering. An installed walkway created an opportunity for a nearby elementary school to use the basin as a "living classroom," with a place to view aquatic plant and animal life.

A wetland swale was created to remove pollutants and reduce the flow rate of runoff coming from an auto repair shop, landscape nursery, office buildings, and roads. The swale was constructed in a long, linear shape with a forebay where heavier solids would be captured. Sand filters, which were effective in achieving pollution control, were constructed using PVC piping and standard manhole structures connecting the settling chamber and sand filter.

In addition, 250 feet of shoreline and 5,600 feet of streambank were stabilized using a combination of bioengineering techniques such as A-jacks, lunker structures, coir fiber rolls, brush layering, willow staking, and native plant installation. Lunker structures, made of real or recycled plastic lumber, were used to form artificial undercut banks. These structures stabilized the toe of the streambank and were found to be effective at creating a cover for aquatic habitat. A vegetative zone was created by using A-jacks to stabilize the shoreline and fiber rolls to reduce the effects of wave action. Native plants were then installed in the fiber roll and the newly created zone.

Many impediments to fish migration, including debris blockages and logjams, were removed. Riffles were installed to dissipate stream energy and improve aquatic habitat. Through prairie and savanna restoration, native deep-rooted vegetative communities were used to stabilize the soil and enhance infiltration.

Nonnative woody vegetation had been growing along the banks of Flint Creek, allowing an undercover that was not effective in stabilizing the banks to grow. A combination of techniques, including physical removal, herbicide treatment, and burning, was used to remove the nonnative vegetation. Native plants were installed, and some subsequent reinstallation was necessary. These efforts resulted in stable slopes, vegetated mostly with native species.

The Flint Creek projects were completed at the end of 1999 and will continue to be monitored and maintained. The goals of the restoration planners have been accomplished, and the result is evident in the water quality of Flint Creek. The Illinois Water Quality Report (2000) now lists Flint Creek as having no impairments due to nonpoint sources. Successful restoration came about with the help of both municipalities, as well as some landowners who continue the projects in the watershed. The Flint Creek watershed restoration is an example of how completing multiple projects and educating communities can make a difference in the quality of a watershed today and in the future. 

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