Position opening: Exciting news! Our partner, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, is hiring a Coastal Outreach & Engagement specialist to provide technical expertise and leadership to the IDNR Coastal Management Program. Areas of work will include community capacity building, habitat conservation, recreation and tourism, and education. The position will be based in our Chicago office. To apply, visit ISTC-Coastal Outreach. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.
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Illinois is dedicated to protecting and managing the natural and cultural resources along our magnificent 63 mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline. During the last two centuries, Illinois’ coast has undergone nearly a complete metamorphosis with its monumental hydrologic modifications, enormous industrial impacts, building of an excellent transportation infrastructure, and creation of skyscrapers that grace our shoreline. With all these changes, it is remarkable that our coastal resources still contain some of the richest, rarest and most diverse complex of plant and animal species and natural habitat areas in the state.
Our shoreline is highly urbanized and has been subject to considerable stress from intense land use and competition to serve the economic and workforce needs and demands of this densely populated area. Lake and Cook counties are currently home to 6 million people and are projected to be home to nearly 6.8 million people by 2030. It is estimated that more than 20 million visitors visit the Lake Michigan shoreline each year. Illinois Beach State Park alone has over 2 million visitors annually. Lake Michigan provides water supply to nearly 7 million Illinois residents (over half of the state’s entire population).
The environmental legacy of our industrial sites and the needs and demands of a growing and vibrant urban community create a complex set of issues to balance as we invest in programs that seek to restore our ecosystems and meet the increasing demands for open space, recreation, and public access.
Coastal Management Program Priorities
The ICMP will initially focus on efforts to address the following program areas which are also outlined in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy. The ICMP will describe desired outcomes, prioritize strategies for achieving them, and suggest site specific projects:
- Invasive Species. The ICMP will include mitigation and long term sustainable solutions to terrestrial invasive species. Strategies for controlling aquatic invasive species will initially focus on the Chicago and Sanitary Ship Canal and the hydrologic/ecological separation of the Illinois River basin from the Lake Michigan basin.
- Habitat, Ecosystems and Natural Area Restoration. The ICMP will address the undeveloped portions of shoreline in Cook and Lake Counties immediately north of Chicago to the Wisconsin state line. These areas include, North Point Marina and Illinois Beach State Park including the Dead River and Kellogg Creek Watersheds, Waukegan Beach, Spring Bluff forest preserve, and wooded ravines along the Lake Michigan bluffs. The Chicago River and North Shore Channel River Corridors and Wilmette Harbor are increasingly important habitat corridors and will be included in the ICMP. On the South Side of the City of Chicago, the Little Calumet and Grand Calumet River corridors, Lake Calumet and Calumet River and the surrounding wetland areas are an important habitat area but also contain some of the most degraded industrial areas. These areas will also be addressed.
- Areas of Concern. Waukegan harbor is the one designated AOC in Illinois. Six of 14 use impairments have been identified for the Waukegan AOC. The impairments include restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption, benthos degradation, restrictions on dredging, beach closings, degradation of phytoplankton populations and loss of fish and wildlife habitat. The ICMP will develop a priority list for projects in Waukegan Harbor, Waukegan Lakefront Waukegan River Watershed to remove these impairments.
- Persistent Bio-accumulative Toxins. Toxic issues in northeastern Illinois are generally legacy issues from our industrial past. They are mostly well documented and tend to be concentrated in the river sediments, brownfields and superfund sites. The ICMP will develop site specific strategies for each property and develop priorities for long term restoration strategies as appropriate.
- Sustainable Development. The Illinois coast is primarily urban with the few exceptions mentioned previously. The ICMP will focus on the development of strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, including reducing individual carbon footprints, and the expanding the use of our natural resources to act as natural carbon sinks.
- Non-point source. Non-point source pollution is primarily related to storm-water management which for the most part is managed, treated and ultimately discharged away from the Lake Michigan Basin. Despite the investment of billions of dollars over the decades, basement flooding, and diversions of untreated sewage into Lake Michigan are not uncommon across the region. The ICMP will facilitate an important discussion of expanding the use of green infrastructure to control storm-water, promote groundwater recharge and reduce flooding.
- Information and Indicators. The ICMP will identify existing and ongoing data collections and indicators. It will also identify gaps in data and develop priorities for future data collection efforts. The ICMP will also assist in the collaborative development of sustainability indicators for the region.
- Public Access and Recreation. Illinois’ shoreline is increasingly used for recreation at unprecedented levels. The demand for public access to the lake and recreation resources has outstripped the supply and this demand will only continue to grow in the future. There will always be a need for expanded and improved recreational facilities and services. The ICMP will provide technical and financial assistance to acquire new, add or improve public recreational sites and facilities, and to create new or improve public access sites.
- Economic Development. Our coastal communities are essential components of a strong Illinois economy. The ICMP will provide assistance to improve management programs and support state and local government efforts to identify and designate areas especially suited for water-related economic development and in redeveloping port and waterfront areas. The ICMP will provide technical and financial assistance in the regional planning process for transmission and transportation routes.
How can the ICMP benefit coastal communities?
Illinois is eligible to receive approximately $2 million per year, which will fund a grants program to implement local projects. Local and state agencies and non-profit organizations would be eligible to apply for and receive funds. A few examples of how other States/communities have used these funds include:
- low-cost construction projects such as dune walkovers and boat launches
- planning and creation of beach access points
- reinvigorating economically depressed waterfront areas
- preventing and monitoring beach erosion
- providing technical assistance on shore protection and bluff stabilization
- providing assistance for local planning in coastal areas
The types of activities that can be funded are broadly defined and will be left to the creativity of state and local governments and organizations, as long as the goals of the ICMP are addressed and the projects occur within the ICMP Boundary.
The ICMP will initially focus on efforts to address the following program areas which are also outlined in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy. The ICMP will describe desired outcomes, prioritize strategies for achieving them, and suggest site specific projects: Illinois is eligible to receive approximately $2 million per year, which will fund a grants program to implement local projects. Local and state agencies and non-profit organizations would be eligible to apply for and receive funds. A few examples of how other States/communities have used these funds include: The types of activities that can be funded are broadly defined and will be left to the creativity of state and local governments and organizations, as long as the goals of the ICMP are addressed and the projects occur within the ICMP Boundary.