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$1M awarded to wetlands restoration project on Chicago’s Southeast Side

Several environmental organizations funded a restoration project for the Powderhorn Lake Forest Preserve.

A project restoring over 100 acres of rare marsh, dune and swale habitat across southeast Chicago was awarded $1 million.
A project restoring over 100 acres of rare marsh, dune and swale habitat in Powderhorn Lake Forest Preserve across southeast Chicago was awarded $1 million.
National Audubon Society

Over 100 acres of wetlands in southeast Chicago will be restored in a three-year, $1 million project, according to the environmental group Audubon Great Lakes.

Powderhorn Lake Forest Preserve, along the Illinois-Indiana state line, has prairie, woodland and wetland habitats. Powderhorn Lake and Wolf Lake were historically connected as part of a massive wetland in the area.

“There are two stages to the loss of the number of wetlands, and the body of wetlands,” Bradford Kasberg, wetland and restoration manager at Audubon Great Lakes, was quoted as saying in a press release announcing the project earlier this week. Those stages, Kasberg explained, are: industrialization and other development, followed by pollution and invasive plant species.

Audubon Great Lakes aims to reconnect the two lakes by installing a drain at the north end of Powderhorn Lake to improve native fish passage and restore marsh habitat.

“This project builds on a large partnership in the Calumet region of Illinois to restore marshes to their former glory, providing refuge for threatened and common wildlife and improving resilience to heavy storms and lake level fluctuations,” said Chip O’Leary, deputy director of resource management at the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Cook County’s Powderhorn Lake Forest Preserve project team was awarded the $1 million for the project by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Great Lakes Commission.

Draining a 55-acre shallow pool adjacent to the lake will allow the native marsh habitat to be re-established. That also will create a safe fish passage for the first time in decades, according to Audubon Great Lakes.. Powderhorn Lake will drain into Wolf Lake, which will reach Lake Michigan, expanding the marsh habitat.

“These improvements will provide more habitat for fish to spawn, which should make those who fish at Powderhorn — both marsh birds and people — very happy.,” said O’Leary.

This will also alleviate flooding issues in Chicago’s 10th ward, according to Ald. Susan Garza.

“With high water levels in Lake Michigan and Powderhorn Lake, improving drainage and better controlling the flow of water in the Calumet is important for the benefit of wildlife and people,” Garza was quoted as saying.