Partnering for Clean Water: The Grand Calumet River Lagoons Erosion Control Demonstration

Partnering for Clean Water: The Grand Calumet River Lagoons Erosion Control Demonstration

by Sandra Wilmore, Save the Dunes Conservation Fund

The City of Gary’s Marquette Park and the eastern portion of the Grand Calumet River Lagoons will soon have an enhanced landscape that will contribute to better water quality and improved accessibility for all visitors, including the handicapped. This spring, Save the Dunes Conservation Fund will coordinate the Grand Calumet River Lagoons Erosion Control Demonstration to address a serious erosion problem identified as a source of water quality degradation in the Grand Calumet River Lagoons.

Save the Dunes Conservation Fund developed the Grand Calumet River Lagoons Watershed Plan in 1998 through a subcontract with the City of Gary for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The Grand Calumet River Lagoons serve as the headwaters to the Grand Calumet River, which drains into Lake Michigan. This watershed has been designated the Grand Calumet River and Indiana Harbor Ship Canal Area Of Concern by the 1986 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The Watershed Plan created by Save the Dunes Conservation Fund describes the current conditions of the Lagoons’ subwatershed, identifies problems, and recommends solutions to the impaired waters of the Lagoons. The Grand Calumet River Lagoons Erosion Control Demonstration will implement two of the recommended solutions: erosion control and public awareness.

One of the problems identified as contributing to poor water quality in the Grand Calumet River Lagoons is a high sediment load, estimated to be 1,510 cubic yards per year to the eastern basin alone. At the demonstration site, heavy foot and boat traffic from fishermen and other park visitors has destroyed all vegetation. Stormwater runoff over the barren area contributes excessive sediments to the Lagoons. A deck was chosen to remediate this problem and provide improved pedestrian and handicapped access. The establishment of native vegetation on barren areas will stabilize the surrounding sand. A special feature of the project is that the building material for the deck will be a tropical hardwood, Pau Lope (Tabebuia serratifolia). This wood has outstanding characteristics of strength and durability, is sustainably harvested, and nearly impervious to water. It requires no chemical treatment and no maintenance for 50 to 100 years.

The Grand Calumet River Lagoons Erosion Control Demonstration will educate park visitors via an informative sign describing the need for the project and explaining the environmental and people-friendly design. To build public awareness, Save the Dunes Conservation Fund is also working with various partners on engaging local students in the project and developing an educational brochure. The brochure will inform residents and the general public about the water quality impacts of erosion and how to avoid and remediate problems. Save the Dunes Conservation Fund’s partners include the Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, and the Lake County Solid Waste Management District. Other partners include the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society, the Gary Park Department, a volunteer architect, and volunteers from the Indiana Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights.

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.