Skip to Main Content

Streams 





At the dawn of the 20th century, most of Illinois’ 26,000 miles of stream sand rivers has sinuous courses with associated rich marshes and swamps. The stream banks were lined with protective vegetation that reduced the likelihood of bank failures and heavy erosion. Since then, agriculture and development have drastically reduced the health of our streams. The Streams Campaign is working to identify focal species and promote actions that improve habitats and reduce stressors for these species.  Measuring progress
Goals and Actions


 1.  Develop and promote upland agricultural practices that decrease the energy, sediment load,
      temperature, and pollutant load of drainage waters
            a.  establishment of native perennial vegetation on highly erodible soils
            b.  use of buffer vegetation at land-water transitions
            c.  wetland enhancement and restoration
            d.  conservation tillage or no-tillage practices
            e.  precision nutrient applications
            f.   limiting livestock access to streams
            g.  water control structures on subsurface tile drains for seasonal use
            h.  continued protection of stream waters and groundwater from nitrates, bacteria and
                 other contaminants derived from livestock waste
 2.  Develop and promote practices that decrease the energy, sediment load, temperature, and
      pollutant load of drainage waters from developed (urban, suburban) lands
            a.  wetland enhancement and restoration, and other tools for flood water retention; use
                 retention facilities to hold floodwaters for an adequate length of time
            b.  minimizing impervious surfaces
            c.  zoning guidelines to promote smart growth and minimize effects on environmentally sensitive
                 lands (e.g., highly erodible soils)
            d.  maintenance and improvement of wastewater treatment facilities
            e.  appropriate nutrient applications on landscaped vegetation
 3.  Protect, restore and enhance near-stream and in-stream habitats and processes
            a.  restore and manage grassy buffers, wetlands, riparian forests, and flood plains
            b.  restore tributary streams to reduce head-cutting and sediment transmission to large rivers
                    1.  buffer and restore channels of the Vermilion (Wabash), Embarras, and Little
                        Wabash rivers and their tributaries to benefit the high diversity of aquatic Species in
                         Greatest Need of Conservation in the Wabash River Natural Division
                    2.  restore and manage the Wabash River, the largest unchannelized andunimpounded
                         river in Illinois
                    3.  buffer and restore channels in 8-10 small headwater stream segments >5miles to
                         support listed fishes and mussels in each the Northeastern Morainal, Grand Prairie, Rock
                         River Hill Country, Wisconsin Driftless, and Illinois River and Mississippi River Sand
                         Areas natural divisions
            c.  re-meander channelized streams; provide technical assistance, publish and market to drainage
                 districts best practices that reduce erosion and improve habitat while lowering costs
            d.  re-establish and maintain connectivity of the main stem, main stem-tributary, channelfloodplain,
                 and channel-backwater on rivers and streams where appropriate
            e.  restore normal flood-pulse and hydrologic patterns
                    1.  remove the dramatic water level changes associated with operation of wicket dams
                    2.  reduce low-water fluctuations where possible, concentrating on the months of May
                         through October
                    3.  reduce peak flows by 2 to 3 percent for 2- to 5-year recurrence storm events–this
                         will help to reduce  peak flood stages and reduce high-water fluctuations along the river
            f.  dredge sediments where necessary
            g.  compact sediments to improve substrate conditions for aquatic plants, fish, and wildlife
            h.  restore and rehabilitate backwaters to a diversity of depths (5% >9 feet, 10% 6-9 feet,
                25% 3-6 feet, and 60% <3 feet)
            i.  remove unnecessary dams and fit necessary dams with effective fish passage structures
            j.  restore and maintain side channel habitats
            k.  regulate reservoir releases to assure seasonal inundation of oxbows and backwaters
                and to maintain the integrity of floodplain forests
 4.  Restore populations of imperiled and extirpated aquatic animals
            a.   maintain populations at all currently-occupied locations and re-establish populations
                  at 50% or more of historic locations where suitable habitat persists or can be restored.
                  The recovery of aquatic endangered and threatened animals will depend on restoration
                  and enhancement of existing aquatic habitats, such as pools, riffles, and lateral
                  wetlands. It will be necessary to re-create wetland habitats for amphibians and dragonflies.
                    1.  protect and enhance Round Pond for the river cooter and other reptile species
                    2.  protect the Vermilion River (Illinois), lower Fox River and tributaries for benefit of
                         listed redhorse species
                    3.  restore the Saline River and its tributaries to benefit Ohio River drainage mussels and
                         crayfish in the Shawnee Hills natural division
                    4.  restore and protect Crane Creek (Sangamon River) and other groundwater fed,
                         well-vegetated streams supporting unique fish communities
                    5.  restore coolwater streams, particularly within the Apple and Rock River watersheds
            b.  reintroduce native species into stream habitat where decimating factors have been
                 eliminated and natural recovery is unlikely
            c.  collaboration among the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board, Illinois Department
                 of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other agencies, organizations and
                 institutions on recovery plans and actions for rare and declining species
 5.  Prevent and control invasions of detrimental exotic species
            a.  implement Rapid Response plans for the Great Lakes basin and Mississippi River
                 basin, covering all of Illinois
                    1.  Prevent invasion by black carp in the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois River
                         watersheds
            b.  install an aquatic nuisance species barrier that protects the Great Lakes and Illinois
                 River basin from biological invasions
            c.  continue removal and control (chemical, mechanical and biological) of invasive exotic
                 species, especially within high quality natural areas
 6.  Restore and manage high-quality examples of all river, stream, lake, and pond communities,
     including all Grade A and B Illinois Natural Areas Inventory sites, in all natural divisions within
     which they occur
 7.  Fill information gaps and develop conservation actions to address stresses
            a.  understand baseline conditions of system functioning and sustainability, against which
                 change can be measured
            b.  identify and address system-wide limiting factors for representative native species or
                 communities, including, but not limited to, altered natural disturbance regimes (hydrology,
                 connectivity, etc.), excessive sedimentation, reduction and fragmentation of aquatic and
                 riparian habitat (habitat patch size, habitat spacing, lateral and longitudinal connectivity),
                 water and sediment quality problems, and invasive species
            c.  develop flow standards for all rivers
            d.  evaluate drainage maintenance procedures in Illinois’ rivers to protect important remnant
                 habitats and avoid stream bed erosion
            e.  identify and quantify land alterations that contribute to unnatural fluctuations and flow
                regimes in rivers and streams.
            f.  identify local opportunities (isolated backwaters, potential moist-soil floodplain areas)
                and implement projects to provide basis for larger restoration projects.
            g.  identify areas in the Green River and Rock River drainages that can be conserved to
                sustain populations of weed shiner and blacknose shiner
            h.  identify beneficial uses of sediments
            i.  develop and implement guidelines for sustainable use of surface and ground waters for
                residential, commercial, agricultural and recreational uses by all of Illinois’ citizens
 8.  Coordinate stream and watershed conservation actions with other agencies, organizations and
     upstream and downstream states to meet system-wide objectives
 9.  Increase water quality education efforts in areas under high development pressure and/or within
     fragile geographic zones (i.e. karst terrain)
10.  Marketing and technical assistance will be required for adoption and appropriateimplementation
       of the streams campaign.


Priority Places for Work

The following places are specifically mentioned in the Wildlife Action Plan:

Buffer and restore channels of the Vermilion (Wabash), Embarras, and Little Wabash rivers and their
tributaries to benefit the high diversity of aquatic Species in Greatest Need of Conservation in the
Wabash River Natural Division.

Restore and manage the Wabash River, the largest unchannelized and unimpounded river in Illinois.

Buffer and restore channels in 8-10 small headwater stream segments >5 miles to support listed fishes
and mussels in each the Northeastern Morainal, Grand Prairie, Rock River Hill Country, Wisconsin
Driftless, and Illinois River and Mississippi River Sand Areas natural divisions.

Protect and enhance Round Pond for the river cooter and other reptile species.

Protect the Vermilion River (Illinois), lower Fox River and tributaries for benefit of listed redhorse
species.

Restore the Saline River and its tributaries to benefit Ohio River drainage mussels and crayfish in the
Shawnee Hills natural division.

Restore and protect Crane Creek (Sangamon River) and other groundwater fed, well-vegetated streams
supporting unique fish communities.

Restore coolwater streams, particularly within the Apple and Rock River watersheds.

Implement Rapid Response plans for the Great Lakes basin and Mississippi River basin, covering
all of Illinois.

Prevent invasion by black carp in the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois River watersheds.

Install an aquatic nuisance species barrier that protects the Great Lakes and Illinois River basin from
biological invasions.

Identify areas in the Green River and Rock River drainages that can be conserved to sustain
populations of weed shiner and blacknose shiner.

Maintain the supply of quality angling days in streams and Lake Michigan.

Re-establish a naturally reproducing population of lake trout in Illinois waters of Lake Michigan.
 

Partners

The Steering Committee of this campaign is comprised of passionate staff from US Fish and Wildlife Service
Illinois DNR
Illinois EPA
Illinois IDOT
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Sierra Club
Isaac Walton League
The Nature Conservancy
Open Lands
Illinois Natural History Survey.

Related Information

Mussel Project – Freshwater mussels are one of the fastest declining taxonomic groups of organisms in North America, yet few consistently collected mussel-community data sets exist in Illinois. With State Wildlife Grant funding, we have collected baseline mussel data in conjunction with existing basin surveys on wadeable streams and other high priority locations in Illinois. To date, over 1050 sites in Illinois have been sampled and the results have been summarized in basin reports

Coolwater Streams  – Temperature is one of the primary factors that determine the distribution of aquatic species.  Although the predominant aquatic organisms in Illinois favor warmwater conditions, some coolwater obligate species are present (e.g. mottled sculpin and brown trout), which indicates the presence of cool streams.  The goal of this study was to survey those cool streams and characterize stream thermal types to develop rapid methods (surrogates) for identifying stream temperature.
Temperature and stream characteristics (both biotic and physical) were collected at more than 350 stream locations and approximately 37% of those were identified as cool.  Four fish species (mottled sculpin, brook stickleback, longnose dace and brown trout) were classified as coolwater obligates.  Estimation of groundwater inputs to a stream, baseflow conditions and hyporheic temperature profiles were physical features that related to stream temperature.  Using collected temperature information, we were able to construct a model that predicted temperature in streams throughout the state, and this model is 78% accurate at placing a stream into the correct thermal category.  The combination of model outputs and identified characteristics can be used to classify stream temperature throughout the state.               

Fish Species in Greatest Need of Conservation  - Within the Wildlife Action Plan, fish Species in Greatest Need of Conservation (SGNC) are evaluated using information from the IDNR and INHS fish databases and a small number of experts.  The goal of this study was to reevaluate status of these species by incorporating new data.  Specifically,  this study reconstructed fish SGNC tables (Appendix I and II of the Plan) using more recent data from a larger body of sources, included opinions from additional experts and evaluated the species in a quantitative and repeatable manner.  These revisions will be included in the Action Plan revision, which will be completed in 2015.
Each fish SGNC was reevaluated using the eight listing criteria in Appendix I by analyzing data from seven fisheries databases, 31 fisheries experts and pertinent literature.  Emphasis was placed on assessing trends in abundance and distribution.  Stresses (Appendix II) were reevaluated with expert opinion and literature.  This new evaluation process resulted in changes to 35% of listing criteria in Appendix I and 73% of stress assessments in Appendix II, largely because efforts were made to complete missing information in the original Plan appendices.  An additional product of this study was the completion of distribution maps  for all fish SGNC. 

Contact

Ann Marie Holtrop
IDNR Watershed Protection Section
One Natural Resources Way
Springfield, IL 62702
(217) 785-4325
Ann.holtrop@illinois.gov