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Stormwater Commission announces 2013 awardees

The City North Chicago took lead designing constructing regional detentibasfuture Sheridan Road Crossing development site former brown field site being

The City of North Chicago took the lead on designing and constructing a regional detention basin at the future Sheridan Road Crossing development site, a former brown field site being developed with input from City residents.  | Courtesy city of North Chicago

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Updated: March 13, 2014 6:34AM

You might not be thinking of stormwater right now, but once the snow melts and the spring rains start, you might be thankful for those awarded for a variety of projects throughout the county by the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission.

From a detention pond in North Chicago to a school in Wadsworth to a Highland Park home, all the award winners used best practices in their watersheds, improving drainage and reducing the damaging effects of floodwaters.

“The awards are an opportunity to say thank you for implementing projects, forging partnerships and educating watershed stewards in an effort to improve Lake County’s natural drainage system and to reduce flood damages,” said Mike Warner, SMC executive director.

In North Chicago, the construction of the Sheridan Road Crossing development site, a former brownfield, did not require stormwater detention. But city officials decided to go ahead with best practices anyway as a way of cleaning some of the water heading to Lake Michigan from Pettibone Creek, and alleviating some flooding problems in a nearby neighborhood. The basin was constructed as a wetland with native plants that will help filter out pollutants, adding a water quality benefit, but also reducing runoff by holding water back from the creek. There is also a crushed stone recreational trail around the basin with signs explaining its function.

“This was a perfect opportunity to improve the environment and protect Pettibone Creek,” said Josh Wheeler, city engineer and public works director.

He said all the water from the Sheridan Road Crossing site goes into the basin and filters through the wetland before entering the creek and then Lake Michigan. This helps the creek from filling too quickly, which has caused flooding problems upstream on Broadway and some other streets.

“We reduced the amount of water going onto that creek all at once,” he said.

At the awards night, Warner said, “The city of North Chicago saw an opportunity, and not only converted a former brown field site into a shovel ready one for new development, but designed the site to reduce local flooding, improve water quality and offer an aesthetic transition from pavement to prairie.”

The Prairie Trail School and Gurnee Grade School District 56 were given the Development of the Year for “going native” in developing the former 71-acre farmsite, and Warner said it’s a showcase for best management practices and the use of green infrastructure.

It features native prairie, a bioswales, rain garden, wetland bottom detention basin, and landscaped islands in the parking lots. All these practices reduce water runoff and pollution. Stormwater from the site goes into Newport Creek and eventually into the Des Plaines River.

Britt Hanson and Todd Nega of Highland Park received the Stewardship of the Year award for volunteering to take their traditional backyard landscaping and apply Aldo Leopold’s land ethic into a new yard with sustainable landscaping. Their property backs onto the Bartlett Ravine, part of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, a multi-faceted lakefront ravine conservation project on Lake Michigan.

Warner quoted Leopold, saying “that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, animals, or collectively: the land.” They installed swales to slow water down and capture runoff and they planted 2500 deep-rooted native plants along the backyard ravine edge to reduce erosion and filter stormwater. It also attracts wildlife and they are allowing Openlands to use their property as a demonstration project for other homeowners along the ravine system.

The Tower Lakes Improvement Association, in the Barrington area, was named Community of the Year because it took the initiative to research and implement the Davlin Pond dredging project and partnered with the Barrington Area Conservation Trust (BACT) and the village of Tower Lakes to form the Tower Lakes Watershed Partnership.

“Thank you for working to improve Tower Lakes and the Fox River watershed for the benefit of not only your residents but those upstream and downstream,” said Warner.

The Stormwater Manager of the Year went to Dave Brown, public works director for Vernon Hills, for having a positive impact on one or more watersheds in the county. “Dave took an active role in the Indian Creek Watershed planning process and hosted watershed bus tour stops showcasing village projects as examples of what can be done to improve water quality and restore the natural drainage system in the watershed,” said Warner, especially the Seavey Creek Restoration. Brown has been with the village for 23 years.

The Media Award went to Lake County Television (LCTV) for creating videos on topics ranging from Lake County’s flood response and Geocaching for Stormwater BMPs (Best Management Practices), to project highlights and special events, to tips on recycling stormwater and reducing winter salting,

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