Since July 2001, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) has received two Water Quality Planning Grants from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) for Phases I and II of the Watershed Management Framework Development project: a comprehensive watershed planning project for the counties of Lake, Porter and LaPorte in Northwest Indiana. Two 8-digit watersheds lie within these three counties. They are the Little Calumet-Galien and the Kankakee River Basins (see map). The goal of the project is for all of the communities to work together in establishing achievable management practices and protective goals. The purpose of the project is to inventory the watersheds, identify where water quality is not meeting established standards for protection, and determine what kind of management is necessary in order to meet and exceed those standards that are protective of human health and wildlife.
An Advisory Group has been formed and meets on a quarterly basis. This diverse group of participants includes state and federal agencies, as well as representatives from counties, cities and towns, industry, municipal wastewater treatment, environmental groups, and local citizens. A Technical Team meets monthly to establish objectives and provide direction for the development of the watershed management plan.The plan will be completed by September 2005. NIRPC and the Advisory Group will then work with the communities and other stakeholder groups to implement the plan, as well as assist in developing subwatershed plans at the local level.
On a more local scale, Save the Dunes Conservation Fund has been funded by IDEM to develop a watershed management plan for the Dunes Creek Watershed in northern Porter County.This Watershed Plan will address nonpoint sources of pollution that cause E. coli exceedances and contribute to impaired biotic communities. The exceedances frequently require closing the beach to swimming at the Indiana Dunes State Park. Dunes Creek has been identified in IDEM’s Impaired Waters List for 1998, 2002 and is on the draft list for 2004.
The Watershed Plan will assess current water quality and biological integrity using existing data and acquiring new data as necessary. The planning process will engage the public in making recommendations for improving water quality in the Dunes Creek watershed. A technical steering committee has been formed and has identified the primary water quality concerns affecting the watershed. The committee has also determined vision and mission statements for the watershed plan. Citizen input is encouraged at quarterly public meetings. The last public meeting involved drafting the specific goals for the plan and included a tour of a wetland restoration site in the watershed. The next public meeting will be held on October 7, 2004 at the Indiana Dunes State Park Nature Center in Chesterton.