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posted: 1/7/2014 5:30 AM

$1.4M investment could yield bounty of projects in Lake County

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  • Flood waters from the Des Plaines River invade Old Grand Avenue in downtown Gurnee. The Lake County Forest Preserve District may invest $1.4 million to help fund an estimated $58 million in projects aimed at restoring natural habitats and reducing flooding along the river.

      Flood waters from the Des Plaines River invade Old Grand Avenue in downtown Gurnee. The Lake County Forest Preserve District may invest $1.4 million to help fund an estimated $58 million in projects aimed at restoring natural habitats and reducing flooding along the river.
    Courtesy of Illinois Wing Civil Air Patrol

 
 

The work may not begin for awhile, but a contingent of Lake County Forest Preserve District officials are supporting a plan to invest $1.4 million of local taxpayer money to get an estimated $58 million in projects intended to address flooding and water quality issues along the Des Plaines River.

Members of two forest district committees agreed Monday to authorize Executive Director Alex T. Kovach to send the Army Corps of Engineers a letter of support for habitat restoration projects at six forest preserve properties.

According to the forest district, the Army Corps will proceed with a project only if the affected local agency sends a letter of support.

"So far, we're headed in that direction. We've spent the last two months doing a cost-benefit analysis," Kovach said.

The projects are part of the corps' Upper Des Plaines River Phase II plan. Overall, the plan recommends more than two dozen projects valued at $400 million to $450 million, to limit flood damage and restore ecosystems on the Des Plaines River from southeastern Wisconsin to Lake and Cook counties.

The district's finance committee will consider the measure Thursday, and the full forest board will vote next week.

"It makes sense to us, and we want to be partners with the Army Corps," Kovach said. "This is a perfect example of a long-term project."

Plans are in the concept stage at this point, but if they proceed work would begin in 2017 and continue until 2031, he said.

Projects at the Dutch Gap, Prairie Stream, Raven Glen, Mill Creek, Sedge Meadow and Grainger Woods forest preserves would restore habitat for native species and provide public outdoor recreation opportunities.

Kovach said work also could include removing drain tiles, clearing and controlling invasive species and restoring streams and wetlands.

Once the letter is sent, the forest district and Army Corps would negotiate one or more agreements for projects. The $1.4 million estimate could be reduced or increased during negotiations, and the district could be able to satisfy some of its obligation via credits for land, easements, right of way, or other measures.

The money would need to be added to the district's capital improvement plan.

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