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  2. Coastal Management Program

Sand Management


Movement of sand along the Illinois’ Lake Michigan shore is a complex and dynamic process. Coastal Management Program is engaged in research and planning initiatives to assist coastal communities with addressing sand management challenges.​

​Illinois North Shore Regional Sand Management Working Group 

Phase 1 (March 2015 - July 2016)

The Lake Michigan shoreline is central to the identity of Illinois’ North Shore communities. For decades, municipalities have managed their respective shorelines independently to protect beaches, harbors, and infrastructure from the natural coastal processes of erosion and sand accretion. The increasing presence of man-made structures has altered nearshore coastal dynamics, creating a multitude of challenges for public shoreline managers.  In turn, coastal communities in this region have suffered the economic and environmental consequences of a piecemeal approach to managing a contiguous coastline.

In 2015, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) Coastal Management Program (CMP) funded Alliance for the Great Lakes to facilitate the Illinois North Shore Sand Management Strategy Project (referred to as Phase 1). This 18-month project was aimed at improving regional sand management coordination among public landowners and managers, and state and federal agencies along Illinois’ northern Lake Michigan coast. As a part of this project, 42 individuals came together as the ad-hoc Sand Management Working Group. At the conclusion of the project, the group identified seven next steps to pursue: 

  1. Continue as a regional working group & meet quarterly 

  2. Identify a group coordinator 

  3. Seek funding for regional collaboration 

  4. Gather and share data & make data available in an accessible format 

  5. Analyze regulatory and permitting policies & identify opportunities for amendments 

  6. Explore new shoreline projects & practices 

  7. Develop an engagement strategy for private shoreline stakeholders  

A final report below summarizes the process, outcomes, and proposed next steps Phase 1. Download the Phase 1 Final Report here.​

Phase 2 (2016 - present)

At the conclusion of the Phase 1 project, the Coastal Management Program began facilitating the Sand Management Working Group to address the needs identified during Phase 1. CMP proposed that participants break into small, action-oriented teams, each with a specific focus. To date, the focus areas include: Data & Modeling, Permitting & Regulations, Regional Sand Management Demonstration Projects, and Outreach & Engagement. The teams are moving forward specific initiatives and translating identified needs into tangible outcomes in regional shoreline management.​

Shoreline Research

​Helicopter Time-domain Electromagnetic Mapping of Lake Michigan's Shoreline

The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) and their contractor SkyTEM conducted helicopter-based surveys of the coastal area from Kenosha, WI south to the Illinois/Indiana state line. These surveys are part of a scientific research program that will gather information on sand location and quantity and will inform the protection and preservation of our coastal assets, such as beaches. Surveys will take place in late March 2017. ISGS and SkyTEM will gather data through the use of specialized equipment suspended from a helicopter. The surveys will be conducted along the shore, and the helicopter will not fly over any buildings unless written permission has been obtained from the landowner. This project is funded by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources – Coastal Management Program through a grant received from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ​

April 2017 Update on Helicopter Time-domain Electromagnetic Mapping

During the first week of April 2017 the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) conducted an electromagnetic sand thickness and distribution survey using a helicopter along the Lake Michigan coastline from southeastern Wisconsin to the Illinois and Indiana border. Data collected during the project are currently being processed and results will be shared publically within the next year. The information gathered during this survey will improve the scientific understanding of beach and nearshore processes and will aid coastal managers in planning and decision-making.   



Citizens Observing and Surveying the Shoreline (COaStS) Project

The Lake Michigan Coastal Geology Research Group at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) is starting a long-term shoreline change monitoring program along the Illinois coast. As part of this larger research program, the IDNR Coastal Management Program is partnering with ISGS to launch a new citizen science project, Citizens Observing and Surveying the Shoreline (COaStS). Volunteers are needed to collect data on beach elevation change and longshore currents (i.e. currents that run parallel to the shoreline). These data will help researchers track seasonal and annual trends in sediment movement, such as beach erosion (loss of sand) and accretion (sand gain). This type of information supports the development of models and tools to aid beach managers in making science-based management decisions.

For more information about this project or to sign-up for a volunteer training, please visit: ​

Document List

​Illinois Sand Management in the News

March 2017

Subscribe for our monthly newsletter for updates about our sand management work & other CMP projects.​