Otters: Making a Comeback

According to Chris Anchor, senior wildlife biologist with Forest Preserves of Cook County otters are making a comeback in the Chicago area and in the Chicago River system. He sighted one on South Branch, seen evidence behind the Lyric Opera, and monitored  a male that spent a winter in a FPCC pond and then swam up the Cal-Sag to the Des Plaines River where he met some females near River Trails Nature Center in Northbrook traveling more than 40 miles by water.

According to Anchor river otters are an apex predator and "rely on the health of the entire wetland ecosystem to survive." By understanding river otter behavior, researchers can figure out what kinds of habitat restoration will benefit them most.  "We didn't think the (Chicago River) water quality was good enough," said Anchor in one interview. "Of particular concern was the gas and oil runoff from local roads; experts feared it would enter waterways and interfere with the water-repellent qualities of the otters' fur, causing hypothermia."  

Check out Curious City's take on whether and where there's otters in the Chicago River.

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There's Still Sewage

While in general ambient water quality is vastly improved with the accumulating impact of the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (aka  Deep Tunnel) and sewage treatment plant discharge disinfection, Michael Hawthorne, reporter for the Chicago Tribune, writes that the City of Chicago and the MWRD need to do more to stop sewage from ending up in the water. Tribune analysis found that in 2016 more than 1 billion gallons of sewage and stormwater was released into the Chicago River system at least six times and combined sewer overflows (CSOs) occurred on average every six days.

At present Friends is working with USEPA, MWRD, the Chicago Park District and others to establish public notification best practices and to determine how we meet and enforce the water quality standards already set which include primary contact (think swimming) in many reaches of the river system.

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Silver Carp Found in Calumet River

Today a live silver carp was found in the Calumet River downstream of the O'Brien Lock and Dam.  The fact that they found this fish between the O’Brien lock and the electric barrier in Romeoville underscores the urgency for the White House to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to release their study of how to prevent these fish from breeching the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet. The USACE was going to release the report in February but the Trump administration put it on hold.

Kevin Irons, IDNR's lead ecologist on invasives, called discovery "disappointing" but said it's too early to tell whether the fish swam from downstream or was released somewhere else in the Chicago waterway system. An autopsy should yield more information by mid-July, he said.



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River Sensitive Projects Win Chicago River Blue Awards

Friends of the Chicago River was pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Chicago River Blue Awards presented at Friends’ annual gala, the Big Fish Ball. The Big Fish Ball, established in 2006, raised $260,000 to benefit Friends’ effort to improve and protect the Chicago River system.

The Chicago River Blue Awards honor the work of developers, architects, municipalities, planners and others for their creative approaches to projects within the Chicago River watershed that employ river-sensitive design. In its eighth year, the Friends’ program recognizes those who strive for the ideal in sustainable design that takes people, water, and wildlife into account.  This year, six recipients were chosen for awards including the City of Chicago for the Chicago Riverwalk. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was on hand to receive the award. Presented by McDermott Will & Emery, the Big Fish Ball was attended by 500 guests.

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