On July 12, 2002, a fish kill was identified in the Saline Branch Drainage District (SBDD) and four days later a second fish kill investigation was performed on the Salt Fork Vermilion River (SFVR). The fish kills were a result of toxic levels of ammonia entering the stream system. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and one of its contractors, CEDA Inc., discharged wastewater containing ammonia into the Urbana Champaign Sanitary District's sewer system, and the Sanitary District released the partially-treated wastewater to the SBDD in Urbana. The SBDD drains into the SFVR near St. Joseph. The ammonia release resulted in damage to nearly 10 miles of the SBDD and approximately 32.4 miles of the SFVR.
An NRDA claim was made by the Trustees for the purpose of estimating injury amounts and planning for restoration. The Trustees include the State of Illinois Trustees, represented by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the Federal Trustees represented by the U.S. Department of Interior acting through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. An NRDA settlement was agreed upon by all parties and the matter was settled in February of 2008.
The Trustees have worked together to create a restoration concept, including implementing projects in phases. Phase I efforts are underway with a focus on the Saline Branch. The Phase I Restoration Plan has been published, and includes instream and rain garden implementations at Crystal Lake Park in Urbana. Phase II efforts will focus on the Salt Fork. Further evaluation and development of restoration alternatives for Phase II are underway. Public review and comment will be sought during the restoration planning process.