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  2. Coastal Management Program

Sand Management

Illinois’ shoreline is dynamic. Storms, ice, and fluctuation lake levels combine to create an ever-changing Lake Michigan coastal system. Existing hardened shore protection structures like revetments and jetties add to the system’s complexity. With high lake levels since 2014, shoreline change in our region has been rapid and costly. Some areas of Illinois lose dozens of feet of sandy beaches and coastal habitat, including critical wetlands, every year. This erosion threatens key infrastructure, endangers parks, beaches, and public access points, and washes away stretches of important habitats. Other areas of our coast accumulate sand, which can clog ports and harbors and impact navigation.

Coastal Management Program is engaged in research and planning initiatives to assist coastal communities with sand management challenges.

​Illinois Sand Management
Wor​​king Group 

Our coastal communities recognize that protecting Illinois’ shoreline requires collaboration and innovation. We work hand-in-hand with communities by facilitating the Illinois Sand Management Working Group. Since 2015, this network of partners has improved regional collaboration on public shoreline management.​


Interested in the US Army Corps of Engineers Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) pilot project awarded to Illinois?

This effort grew out of the exciting work of the Illinois Sand Management Working Group.

Learn more about it from the materials below:

Foundational work – Phase 1 (March 2015 – July 2016)

Coastal Management Program funded Alliance for the Great Lakes to facilitate an 18-month Illinois Sand Management Strategy Project (Phase 1). This project brought together more than 40 local, state, and federal leaders and managers invested in public lands on Illinois’ northern Lake Michigan coast. At the end of the project, these participants - the Sand Management Working 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  

Moving forward – Phase 2 (December 2016 – December 2018)

With a strong foundation for regional management, the Coastal Management Program launched the next two-year phase of work (Phase 2) in December 2016. The partner network continued to grow, building a new structure and expanding the participants and organizations involved. The key to Phase 2 was taking the gaps identified in Phase 1 and translating them into results.

  • Our network has about 100 participants, representing about 35 local, state, or federal agency departments and organizations; 

  • We have four teams, which have transformed Phase 1 needs into tangible initiatives in data collection and sharing, policy and permitting analysis and outreach, cost-effective pilot strategies, and local community engagement; and 

  • We have expanded our geographic scope to include Illinois coastal communities from the Wisconsin border to the city of Chicago, with a continued focus on public lands. ​

Our network is proud of our progress to protect Illinois’ public shoreline. Read more about our work here​.

We look forward to Phase 3, the next two years of work, launching in 2019! Our program is working with the Illinois Sand Management Working Group to develop and refine initiatives that reflect our collective goals.

​Sand Management Documents

Shoreline Research

Coastal Management Program established a partnership with the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign​ to improve our understanding of coastal change through solution-focused monitoring and research. The ISGS Great Lakes Coastal Geology Research Group​ conducts process-oriented coastal geology studies using drones, research vessels, and remote sensing devices to explore the dynamic drivers of coastal change. Through this partnership, we are turning cutting-edge science into the foundation for decision-making.    


​Helicopter Time Domain Electromagnetic (HTEM) Project Update

In April 2017, Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) scientists undertook an innovative project that used electromagnetic fields to better understand where sand is along our coast.  The project was the first of its kind in the Great Lakes and used a helicopter to map these sand deposits from Kenosha, Wisconsin to Chicago, Illinois. ISGS completed processing the project data and is now analyzing​ the results. Ultimately, ISGS will create products that translate the outcomes for decision-making.  ISGS expects some of the products to be available to the public by mid-2019, including data on sand volumes along the coast and at sites of interest.  In late 2019, ISGS will complete a 3-dimensional map of sand thickness for the entire coastline.  

Community Science Shoreline Monitoring Project – COASTS​

Want to get involved in scientific research and learn more about the changes happening on the coast? Well, you are in luck! The ISGS Great Lakes Coastal Geology Research Group and the Coastal Management Program launched a community science shoreline monitoring program called COASTS, and we need your help. Help us collect beach elevation change data to better understand seasonal and annual trends in 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.​

Visit the COASTS website to sign up for a volunteer training and learn more about this project. ​