Little Calumet River – East Branch

Little Calumet River East Branch Watershed Group Vision

The Little Calumet River East Branch’s watershed supports clean water and healthy ecosystems allowing for multiple uses and an excellent quality of life.

The Little Calumet River’s East Branch (LCEB) begins in Coolspring Township in unincorporated LaPorte County and flows west through unincorporated Porter County, passing through portions of the towns of Burns Harbor, Chesterton, Porter, and the City of Portage.  The River drains nearly 50,000 acres of forest, agriculture, and developed lands.  Some sections of the river are impaired due to pollutants such as bacteria, sediment, and excess nutrients.  Nevertheless, the LCEB River is a great asset to the quality of life in northwest Indiana. Save the Dunes was awarded a grant from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) in 2012 to coordinate the development of a watershed management plan for the LCEB watershed.  A Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Lake Michigan Coastal Program grant has also been obtained to coordinate public education and outreach to foster appreciation for the LCEB and its tributaries and to help residents understand how they can help improve water quality.  We are pleased to be working to protect this well-loved Lake Michigan tributary. To download a copy of the final Little Calumet River – East Branch Watershed Management Plan, click here: LCEB WMP FINAL – October 2015.

The Little Calumet River East Branch Watershed

Watershed Planning Projects and Events

Below is a sampling of watershed planning projects and events in the LCEB watershed to date.  For more information on the LCEB or any of the projects listed, email office@savedunes.org.

Coordinate the Formation of a Watershed Group

Save the Dunes was awarded funding through EPA and IDEM in 2012 to coordinate the development of the LCEB Watershed Group, who meets with us regularly.  The watershed management plan is currently being drafted with input from this group, with additional support from the group’s Steering Committee, Technical Committee, and Outreach Committee.  These committees meet as-needed to help Save the Dunes analyze water quality data, develop outreach materials, and conduct a social indicator survey to gauge current knowledge and attitudes from residents regarding the LCEB watershed and non-point source pollution.  The LCEB Watershed Group is highly dedicated to developing a strong plan for this watershed that can be used by all who live, work, or play near the River.  All watershed group meetings are open to the public.

Susan Mihalo, an LCEB watershed group member, examines the underside of Ash Tree Bark that was damaged by the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle.

Susan MiHalo, a watershed group member, examines the underside of Ash Tree bark that was damaged by the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle.

Development of a Watershed Management Plan

Save the Dunes was awarded funding through EPA and IDEM in 2012 to coordinate the development of a strong watershed management plan to meet our main challenge: to improve the LCEB River and its tributary streams for multiple uses and an excellent quality of life.  This plan is being developed with major input from the LCEB Watershed Group.  The plan contains a wealth of background information on the watershed itself, summarizes historic and current water quality, outlines major stakeholder concerns for our waterways, establishes goals to improve water quality over the long term, and more.The plan was completed and approved by IDEM in October 2015. The final draft can be found here:  LCEB WMP FINAL – October 2015.

This elevation map is a sample of the type of data that goes into developing a watershed management plan.

This elevation map is a sample of the type of background information that we put into our watershed plan.

 

Education and Outreach Activities and Events

Save the Dunes’ Water Program is constantly working to reach out to the public about our watershed planning efforts through educational activities and fun public events.  These activities were funded by the Lake Michigan Coastal Program through the Department of Natural Resources.  For a list of upcoming LCEB watershed events and other happenings at Save the Dunes, please sign up for our Enews or visit our events calendar, here.

Brummit Elementary School Watershed Education Unit

Save the Dunes has partnered with Brummit Elementary School in Westchester, Indiana, to develop a watershed education unit for its K-4th grade students.  Save the Dunes’ Water Program staff provide fun and educational activities to Brummit’s students that get them thinking about how their activities impact water quality through game-like exercises.  To date, we have performed a wide variety of indoor and outdoor lessons to these students, including macroinvertebrate sampling, the incredible journey, Freddy the Fish, and more.  Our combination of indoor and outdoor activities has been well received by students, teachers, and the Duneland School Administration.  Our dream is that a watershed unit will someday be incorporated into all of northwest Indiana’s schools, so that all young stakeholders get to participate in these fun activities that connect them to their watersheds and waterways.

Third grade students at Brummit Elementary School survey macroinvertebrates in the LCEB river to determine if the river can support diverse populations.

Third graders at Brummit survey macroinvertebrates and test water chemistry in the LCEB river.

Indiana University Northwest Field Training Event

Save the Dunes Partnered with Indiana University Northwest (IUN) to get students in their Field Methods class out in the water performing sampling methods that are used to asses waterways in our area.  A site on Coffee Creek, an LCEB tributary, was used to demonstrate chemical, physical, and biological stream sampling techniques that are used by Save the Dunes when we monitor streams.  Other university professors, from Ivy Tech Community College and Valparaiso University, also attended, so that they could incorporate some of the field methods into their respective classes, too.  This event was not only fun for the students, but helped better prepare them for a green career in northwest Indiana.  Hopefully we’ll be seeing those faces again as colleagues in future days!

IUN students learn field data collection methods from Save the Dunes staff at a site on Coffee Creek.

IUN students learn field data collection methods from Save the Dunes staff at a site on Coffee Creek.

Great Lakes Innovative Stewardship Through Education Network (GLISTEN) Program

Save the Dunes hosted two GLISTEN liaisons in 2012 to help us asses the LCEB watershed through weekly sampling in the summer season.  This data is especially important to the watershed planning effort because the rivers are used the most by people during the warmer months.  By gathering weekly data to augment the intensive monthly baseline sampling that was performed by IDEM in 2012, we were able to get a more detailed picture of bacterial levels, flow rates, and pollution loading from all major tributaries in the LCEB watershed.  This information will be used to help us fine-tune our watershed goals in the watershed management plan.  The students returned to their respective universities at the end of the summer and helped their professors incorporate what they learned into the universities’ curricula and lab exercises.  This has led to the development of a permanent monitoring program and “educational corridor” in the LCEB watershed.  We are proud to have been a part of this GLISTEN cluster.

GLISTEN Stewards sample the LCEB watershed in 2012.

GLISTEN Stewards sample the LCEB watershed in 2012.

Day of Leisure and Learning on the Little Calumet River

On May 4th, 2013, Save the Dunes’ water program held a free, fun-filled, and informative public event that was hosted at the Shirley Heinze Land Trust’s LCEB Wetlands Preserve in Westchester, Indiana.  The event began with a demonstration of the Enviroscape ® model.  The Enviroscape ® is a 3-D watershed model that shows how pollutants located on the land can enter a waterway when it rains.  The group then participated in an interpretive hike through the preserve, led by Shirley Heinze Land Trust’s Paul Quinlan, where the positive impacts of wetlands, natural floodplains, and riparian restoration activities on the LCEB river were discussed.  Gina Darnell, a forester and member of the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association (NWIPA), also gave a brief seminar summarizing her research on the invasive Emerald Ash Borer Beetle, whose destruction of Ash trees is expected to contribute to bank failure and increased stormwater runoff in the watershed in the future.  Boats and lifejackets were also provided by NWIPA, who led participants and their families on a fun float up and down the LCEB river within the preserve, while Mia from our Water Program collected macronivertebrate (water bug) specimens to show how assessing life in a stream can tell you a thing or two about water quality.  It was an incredible day.

Young LCEB stakeholders patiently wait their turn for the fun float at our LCEB Day of Leisure and Learning on May 4, 2013.

Young LCEB stakeholders patiently wait their turn for the fun float at our LCEB Day of Leisure and Learning.