Why is watershed planning necessary?
What is a watershed? A watershed is an area of land that drains into a given river, lake or other water body. Unlike municipal boundaries, watershed boundaries are defined by nature, and therefore watersheds often overlap a number of municipal jurisdictions.
Watershed plans provide direction and target resources for better management and restoration of the watershed. The plan serves as a blueprint for improving water quality, reducing flood damage, and protecting natural resources in a watershed -- and for preventing existing watershed problems from worsening in the future as a result of imprudent land development. Additionally, watershed planning offers an opportunity for multiple jurisdictions with varying priorities to coordinate their efforts and accept their responsibility for the impact their actions have both up and downstream.
What is the benefit of a watershed plan?
The data compiled for a watershed plan provides municipalities, forest preserves, developers, and others with information to plan according to the lay of the land. Updated information can provide guidance for activities such as zoning, transportation considerations, land acquisition and open space preservation and restoration. Countywide watershed development standards can also be tailored to fit each watershed. The Lake Michigan watershed, for example, has an intricate system of bluffs and ravines while the North Branch of the Chicago River watershed is flat and linear. What may be proper development in the Lake Michigan watershed may not be appropriate for the North Branch because stormwater drains differently or components of the natural drainage systems differ.
Who should participate in the planning process?
Watershed stakeholders participate in watershed planning. A stakeholder is anyone that has an interest or ‘stake' in the watershed. Stakeholders may include municipalities, townships, drainage districts, homeowner associations, developers, county agencies, lakes management groups, landowners and local, state and federal agencies. The watershed planning process can't happen and won't be successful without the input, interest and commitment of stakeholders. Ultimately, to successfully protect or restore a watershed, residents and communities of the watershed have to work together - sharing the costs and reaping the benefits of watershed improvements.
What is included in a watershed management plan?
Goals & Objectives: Key watershed issues and opportunities are identified by the project partners and other stakeholders during the planning process and are used to develop the goals and objectives for the watershed plan. Some of the common problems and opportunities in Lake County's watersheds, for example, include degraded water quality, flooding, erosion, need for better natural resource protection, lack of stream access, poor inter-jurisdictional communication and coordination, and lack of watershed awareness and stewardship.
Watershed Assessment: An important product of a watershed plan is the watershed resource assessment. In many cases, two strategies are used to assess the current watershed condition. The first strategy is to identify and compile relevant information at the watershed level from existing studies, reports, maps and data on topics including water quality, current and projected land use, flood problem areas and natural resources. This information is collected from a variety of sources resulting in a summary report. Maps are also produced for analysis purposes and for project reporting. The second strategy is to physically survey the watershed to collect information that doesn't already exist.
Potential Solutions Toolbox: The ‘toolbox' describes the potential practices (known as best management practices or BMPs) that can be used to improve conditions in the watershed. The BMPs presented reflect a means to achieve plan goals.
Action Plan: The most important component of a watershed plan is the action plan. The action plan is a series of recommended programs and projects for improving the watershed. The action plan ties together the responsibilities of numerous jurisdictions within the watershed so each can contribute their ‘fair share' towards prevention and remedies for watershed problems and opportunities. The action plan provides a basis for coordinating and combining resources between jurisdictions to implement practices to improve the watershed.
(Source: Lake County Stormwater Management Commission)
VALUABLE PLANNING RESOURCE
In summer 2007, The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, in cooperation with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), published the Guidance for Developing Watershed Action Plans in Illinois. This easy-to-read guide serves as a road map for communities that are interested in developing comprehensive watershed-based plans. More importantly, IEPA directs the majority of funding from its "319 Grant Program" to the types of plans described in the Guidance. In other words, projects connected with comprehensive watershed-based plans are given funding priority by IEPA.
Download the Guidance for Developing Watershed Action Plans in Illinois
Learn more about the 319 Grant Program.
PLANNING EFFORTS IN THE UPPER DES PLAINES RIVER WATERSHED
Des Plaines River Watershed Phase II Plan and Process
The Upper Des Plaines River Watershed is subject to significant
flooding caused by lack of channel capacity of the mainstem Des Plaines River
and tributaries to carry major flows during storms. Damaging floods
occurred in 1986 and 1987, resulting in over $100 million in damages. Many
communities along the river, such as Gurnee, Libertyville, Vernon Hills, River
Grove, Wheeling, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights, Des Plaines, Schiller Park,
Franklin Park, Elmwood Park, and Riverside suffered significant
Over the past several years, key state and local agencies have joined
to form an Advisory Committee to identify ways to (1) provide a higher
level of protection than the 25 percent damage reduction provided by Phase I
Upper Des Plaines River Project , and (2) incorporate ecosystem restoration
and recreation in an overall watershed management plan for the Upper Des
Plaines and its tributaries. The Des Plaines Phase II watershed plan, as
authorized by Congress in 1999, covers a large, 3-county watershed that drains
approximately 456 square miles of land.
The Advisory Committee is the broad group of stakeholders, interested
parties and resource agency personnel who advise the Project Management
Team (the Corps of Engineers and local sponsors).
Project Management Team members are individuals representing local
Agencies contributing funding to the feasibility study and who are potential
project sponsors. The Team makes decisions by consensus and provides direction
and oversight to agencies who are performing Scope of Work tasks.
The Corps, along with key local sponsors, will be full partners during
the development of the feasibility report. The report will focus on the
development of a multiple-objective watershed management plan for the
Upper Des Plaines River and Tributaries. Other federal funding opportunities
will also be identified.
More information, a map, and photos are available on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District, web site.
(Source: Lake County Stormwater Management Commission)
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