'A healthy Flint Creek means a healthy Barrington': Plans in works to clean up creek, Flint Lake
Lake Barrington officials are hoping to get federal funds to clean up Flint Lake and parts of Flint Creek through the $1.2 trillion infrastructure improvement package enacted late last year.
Erosion, sediment deposits, invasive plants and other problems have reduced water quality in both waterways, Village Administrator Karen Daulton Lange said.
The village, community groups and the Lake County Forest Preserve District have worked to restore the creek and lake and protect the land around them. But more efforts are needed, including a potentially costly U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study to determine possible solutions, village officials said.
Historically, such studies require local agencies to share the cost of the work. Lake Barrington's share would have been more than it could afford, Daulton Lange said.
Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act President Joe Biden signed into law in November, however, the U.S. government could fully bankroll a study and any subsequent improvements.
"This is huge," Daulton Lange said.
A man-made lake
Covering more than 9 acres, Flint Lake sits near the center of the village, just north of the Stonehenge Golf Club on Route 22.
The kidney-shaped lake was created out of farmland by developers and early residents of the Flint Lake Estates subdivision in the 1960s, in part by damming the creek. It's privately owned by residents and the homeowners association there.
Flowing south to north, about 4 miles of the roughly 11-mile-long creek meander through Lake Barrington.
Both the lake and the creek have had ecological issues for decades, Daulton Lange said.
Invasive plant species including buckthorn and reed canary grass have crowded out native plants. Environmentally important buffer plants don't thrive like they should. Pollution from road salt and fertilizers that wash into the water can be deadly to fish and other aquatic wildlife.
Sediment buildup and drought have lowered the water level in the lake, too. The average water depth is less than one foot, said Jeff Weiss, coordinator with the Flint Creek/Spring Creek Watersheds Partnership, one of the Barrington-based groups that's tackling environmental issues in the waterways.
These problems don't just endanger the fish, birds and other animals that live in and around the waterways. They should also concern Lake Barrington residents, all of whom get water from local wells.
"A healthy Flint Creek means a healthy Barrington," said Kevin Scheiwiller, restoration program manager for Citizens for Conservation, another group trying to improve the creek and lake.
"If the water quality in the creek is high, then that means the water percolating back to the water table where we pull our drinking water from is also going to be filtered and of a higher quality," Scheiwiller said. "If we don't continue to protect and enhance this integral part of the ecosystem ... residents of Barrington stand to suffer the consequences."
Daulton Lange doesn't yet know what kind of environmental remediation might be needed in the creek and lake, or how much such work could cost.
One thing officials want the Army Corps to investigate is the environmental impact of removing the dam, which is on the north end of the lake and reportedly consists of concrete chunks.
Before any improvements are made, the Army Corps must decide if it's interested in doing a local study, Daulton Lange said. That evaluation could take six months.
The next step would be a feasibility study to identify project options. That could take a year, officials said.
Jim Crum, a water resources engineer and lobbyist with Van Scoyoc Associates, has been working with the village on the aquatic issues since January. The village board last week approved a six-month, $18,000 agreement with Crum's firm so he can continue working on the effort.
That five-figure investment is money well spent if Crum helps Lake Barrington secure federal funds for the creek and lake, village officials said.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act "presents a new opportunity to safeguard the Flint Lake/Flint Creek ecosystem," Village President Kevin Richardson said in a news release.
"This is a game-changer for small communities like ours," Richardson said.