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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Illinois (Section 319I - 1994)

Illinois has expanded and refined its management of nonpoint source pollution to consider watershed protection. This holistic approach will focus on watersheds with the most pressing environmental needs and that will result in the greatest benefit. A prime example is the Waukegan River, a priority waterbody in a targeted watershed.

Streambank Stabilization Stems Erosion on the Waukegan River

After years of streambank erosion that has destroyed park lands and bridges and endangered sewer lines, the Waukegan River is making a comeback.

Located about 35 miles north of Chicago, the Waukegan River is 12.5 miles long with a watershed of 7,640 acres. It flows through a densely populated area and discharges into Lake Michigan only 6,000 feet from Chicago's freshwater intake. The problems with the Waukegan River are twofold. First, expanded commercial construction and residential housing development has increased the impervious surface area. This has caused a sharp rise in stormwater peak discharge volume and rates as well as an influx of typically urban nonpoint pollution sources such as toxic hydrocarbons and solid waste.

Second, an unstable stream channel has led to severely eroded banks in the streamside parks along the river. The eroded sediment has endangered pedestrian traffic, damaged sewer lines, and increased the nonpoint source pollution load (TSS) to Lake Michigan.

Therefore, federal, state, and local officials have joined together to prevent further water quality degradation and restore the Waukegan River. A two-year section 319 project, undertaken by the City of Waukegan and the Waukegan Park District, received $200,000 in - November 1991. The Waukegan River Stream Stabilization and Management Project is providing vegetative stabilization with grasses and willows, structural stabilization with riprap, and habitat structures with vegetation.

In fall 1992, stabilization construction in two Waukegan streamside parks--Powell and Washington--was completed. City and park personnel attended a workshop on stream stabilization and project requirements. Other park areas along the river are also being restored.

As part of the Waukegan project, park and city regulations were drafted to protect restored streambanks, maintain vegetation, and dispose of trash, solid waste, and petroleum products. The Waukegan Park District has adopted the regulations and is currently discussing their adoption with the City of Waukegan. The final stage of the Waukegan project will include developing a stream maintenance plan for the river and its borders, a final report that explains the project implementation, and an evaluation of its success. The evaluation will cover improvements in water quality, habitat, and bank stabilization, and the cost effectiveness of the installed restoration practices compared to alternative management strategies. The completed construction at Powell Park has already stabilized portions of the streambank. In the last months of the project, restoration will continue and action will be taken to maintain this restoration.

The completed stream stabilization measures on the Waukegan River successfully withstood the considerable rainfall during summer 1993 with no loss of streambank. And the river's appearance indicates an improvement in water quality through reduced sediment loadings.

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