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$1.3M granted for shoreline project at Illinois Beach State Park

Gov. PQuinn announced $1.3 milligrant for shoreline stabilizatiIllinois  Beach State Park as part his Illinois Jobs Now! program. |

Gov. Pat Quinn announced a $1.3 million grant for shoreline stabilization at Illinois Beach State Park as part of his Illinois Jobs Now! program. | Sun-Times Media file

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“Protecting the environment and creating jobs are not mutually exclusive. This investment will maintain and improve public access to one of Lake County’s most valuable natural resources.”

State Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake

“Protecting our natural resources is a top priority. We need to look for more ways to assist in keeping our shoreline in good repair to preserve Illinois Beach State Park for generations to come.”

State Rep. JoAnn Osmond, R-Gurnee

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Updated: March 31, 2014 4:26AM

There’s going to be more shoreline at Illinois Beach State Park after Gov. Pat Quinn announced $1.3 million for stabilization to prevent a parking lot from being swallowed by Lake Michigan, reduction of erosion with a man-made reef and moving sand to the north end of the site.

The announcement was part of the governor’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program and is being handled by the Capital Development Board. It’s part of his commitment to create jobs and drive Illinois’ economy forward.

“Our investment will help reduce sand erosion and allow hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to continue enjoying this pristine stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline,” Quinn said. “The project will also employ a number of construction workers, which will help the local economy.”

The problems on the shoreline of Adeline Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park in Zion has been ongoing ever since North Point Marina and another marina just into Wisconsin began trapping the natural movement of sand south along the shoreline.

On the north side of North Point Marina, an Illinois state park on 297 acres with 1,500 slips for boats, sand piles up and what used to be a small beach has expanded and become known as the beach with the most closings in the state because of bacteria caused by sea gulls congregating there, along with the occasional dog owner.

“They will take sand from there and bring it over to our side and put it on the feeder beach, where it’s eroding really bad,” said Supt. Saki Villalobos, referring to the area just south of the marina complex where currents naturally swirl and eat away at the beach.

“Last year was the worst,” he said, “I’ve been here a little over a year and we’ve lost a good 20 to 30 feet.” This is an area where a small subdivision used to sit. The eroding shoreline reveals water and sewer lines and well heads from the homes that used to be there.

“That’s where they are going to put more sand in,” he said.

In addition, they are going to extend an underwater concrete reef that makes the water shallower, causing waves to fall forward and not crash onto the beach with so much force. The area is marked to warn boaters. It is also near a parking lot that has been losing ground to the lake. Large rocks are going to be used to shore up that area and the reef should reduce the waves’ power.

“It seems to be helping,” he said of the concrete reef. He said they are also looking at getting sand from the marina in Kenosha County across the border and sand possibly from the Waukegan Harbor area, but that will take longer to accomplish because of permits from various agencies and funding.

One of the problems with the marina beach was it grew as the sand piled up and couldn’t move down the shoreline, growing from an acre to nine acres over the past 20 years. As the beach grew, more birds were attracted and North Point Beach was closed 70 to 80 percent of the time because of high bacteria readings.

In 2012, the Lake County Health Department used a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant for native plantings and to remove invasive plant species — willows, cottonwoods and buckthorn — at the beach near the public boat launch with hopes of improving the quality of the water and reducing swim bans at the state-owned marina.

The new work at the marina and park will be done by Copenhaver Construction, Inc. of Gilberts, Ill., which was the lowest of four bidders for the project at $1,378,000.

Illinois Beach State Park consists of 2,909 acres and 5.8 miles of Lake Michigan Shoreline. It is administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“Illinois’ coastal habitats are highly diverse and very special places,” Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller said. “This project will allow us to give nature a helping hand and protect Lake Michigan’s valuable treasures.”

The project is part of Gov. Quinn’s $31 billion Illinois Jobs Now! program, which will support more than 439,000 jobs over six years. Illinois Jobs Now! is the largest capital construction program in Illinois history, and is one of the largest capital construction programs in the nation.

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