Forest preserve partners with Army Corps for $15 million restoration of Dutch Gap

  • The Lake County Forest Preserve District is partnering with the Army Corps of Engineers for an estimated $15 million restoration of the Dutch Gap Forest Preserve near Antioch. The nearly 750-acre property has been mainly in farmland but is part of a large ecological complex and greenway in north central Lake County.

    The Lake County Forest Preserve District is partnering with the Army Corps of Engineers for an estimated $15 million restoration of the Dutch Gap Forest Preserve near Antioch. The nearly 750-acre property has been mainly in farmland but is part of a large ecological complex and greenway in north central Lake County. Courtesy of Lake County Forest Preserve District

 
 
Updated 12/16/2021 3:36 PM

A large tract of public land near Antioch will be taken out of farming and restored to its natural state to improve water quality, alleviate flooding and enhance the habitat for birds and other creatures.

Drain tiles will be removed to restore natural wetlands, a stream corridor will be improved and other measures taken as part of an estimated $15 million project at the Dutch Gap Forest Preserve.

 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will design and fund the majority of the work in partnership with the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

"It is expensive because it's almost 750 acres. That's a large project," said Jim Anderson, director of natural resources for the forest preserves.

Dutch Gap is east of Route 45 and north of Route 173, between the Prairie Stream and Pine Dunes forest preserves. It's part of a large ecological complex and greenway in the north central part of Lake County and was identified as a priority for restoration in 2015.

As planned, the Army Corps will pay 65% percent of the cost, or $9.75 million. The forest district is responsible for the rest but is getting a credit of $4 million for the land value, leaving it with an out-of-pocket expense of $1.24 million.

"We're not in a rush to get it done but the funds are here and have been appropriated to the project," Anderson said.

The plan is to restore it to a prairie landscape that provides habitat for many species.

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Anderson said the $12 million restoration of Pine Dunes Forest Preserve on Crawford Road to the east of Dutch Gap is a good example of what can be accomplished.

Dutch Gap was one of many projects considered, but the only one supported for federal funding by the Army Corps' Great Lakes and Ohio River division offices, according to Anderson. The forest preserve board officially approved the partnership this week.

The 748-acre Dutch Gap was created in 2010 with the district's acquisition of four properties in Antioch and Newport townships for $32.6 million.

Officials at the time said it would allow for extensive wetland restoration, improvement of grassland and wetland bird habitat, and protection and expansion of oak woodlands along North Mill Creek.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A portion of the north branch of Mill Creek was straightened and deepened to create the Dutch Gap Canal in 1916. It begins in Bristol, Wisconsin, and connects with Mill Creek north of Edwards Road.

Anderson said restoring the former creek bed would be difficult because the canal is deep.

"We would just make it wider to help provide flood reduction," he said.

The work would augment that done south of Dutch Gap in the Ethel's Woods Forest Preserve, where a man-made lake was drained and the meandering North Mill Creek restored, Anderson added.

Design and engineering for the Dutch Gap restoration is expected to take about a year.

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