Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the Grand Calumet

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The clean-up of the Grand Calumet River is now more than 60% complete. This work has resulted in 320 contiguous acres of restored habitat in northern Lake County, and we are already seeing results. The restored habitat is attracting various kinds of wildlife, including the state-endangered American bittern and bald eagles. Completion of the restoration also represents a positive turning point in the revitalization of the Grand Calumet River, once thought to be one of the most contaminated rivers in the Great Lakes region. See The Nature Conservancy’s website for more info. 

In October 2014, Save the Dunes hosted a site visit of the Grand Calumet River remediation and restoration efforts for staff from Senator Donnelly’s and Representative Visclosky’s office to demonstrate the importance of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding in Indiana. The tour highlighted the collaborative, multi-agency work occurring in the Grand Calumet Rive Area of Concern, including river dredging and capping and restoration of surrounding habitat. Active partners in the cleanup and restoration of the Grand Calumet River provided insight on the history of the river’s contamination and the many efforts to revitalize the Grand Calumet and surrounding areas, including removal of contaminated sediment, restoration of high quality habitat along the river, and efforts to engage the community in the river’s revitalization and future opportunities for recreation on and along the river.

Through remediation and restoration, stakeholders hope to one day see the river utilized recreationally and supporting diverse natural communities. The Grand Calumet River should be an asset to the communities it runs through, especially as many of these communities lack abundant recreational opportunities. A healthy river will provide boating and fishing opportunities and create a desirable route for walking or biking. Additionally, a revitalized Grand Calumet River will also support the rich aquatic life that it historically did. Thanks to funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, this river can become a contributing factor to quality of life in the region.

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Representative Visclosky’s Chief of Staff Mark Lopez and The Nature Conservancy’s Paul Labus discuss changes in the Grand Calumet River and surrounding habitat throughout recent years

In 2009, President Barack Obama and the US Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to invest $475 million per year over 5 years in restoring Great Lakes ecosystems. Building upon years of research and planning by federal and local government officials, public interest groups, and private citizens, the Initiative identified targeted goals to address the priorities set by the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy. In 2010, Congress set this plan in motion by providing full funding at $475 million. From 2011-2014 GLRI funding was authorized at $300 million/year. Since 2010, the GLRI has funded over 45 projects and provided over $83.6 million dollars to Indiana, alone. Funded projects range from remediation of contaminated waterbodies to restoration of wetlands, prairies, savannas, and waterways to the development of improved techniques for water quality monitoring. The investments made through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative represent tangible gains to the state through restored ecological services affecting health, recreation, and quality of life, through strengthening of environmental safeguards in the state, and through direct investment and job creation by federal dollars.

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Nicole Barker Explains the GLRI and the projects the program has funded in the Great Lakes region

We are incredibly appreciative to Senator Donnelly and Representative Visclosky and their staff for being part of the discussion on the importance of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative on Indiana’s economy, environment, and quality of life. Thank you to partners from The Nature Conservancy, Hoosier Environmental Council, US Environmental Protection Agency, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, IL-IN Sea Grant, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and the City of East Chicago for joining us for the site visit and providing input. For press coverage of the event, click here and here.

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Paul Labus of The Nature Conservancy details restoration work occurring along the Grand Calumet River, particularly in rare and biodiverse habitats such as dune and swale.

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Diana Mally of the Environmental Protection Agency provided the group with information on cleanup efforts, including the stretches of river that have been completed or are in progress or planning

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