Watershed Planning is Vital to Improve and Protect River System

West Fork of the North Branch of the Chicago River.

In September, the Lake County Board approved two watershed-based plans to guide implementation of best management practices and programs in the Lake Michigan and North Branch Chicago River watersheds to improve water quality, reduce flood damage, and protect and enhance natural resources. From their origins in Lake County, three tributaries flow south into Cook County where they converge to form the North Branch of the Chicago River. 

The two plans – the Lake Michigan Watershed-Based Plan and the North Branch Chicago River Watershed-Based Plan – also provide resources and information for watershed communities to integrate multi-objective watershed management in their decision-making processes. Both plans were also approved by our partners at the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission (SMC) in June.

Learn more about the North Branch plan here.  

“The sophisticated watershed management work in Lake County continues to drive innovation and investment in the Chicago River system’s headwaters, particularly in nature-based storm water strategies that are integral to Friends’ mission,” said Adam Flickinger, planning director at Friends of the Chicago River. “We are excited to see this new plan adopted and to learn from all of the data and watershed mapping that went into it.”

As noted in the plan, the North Branch Chicago River watershed partnership originated from an ad hoc group coordinated by Friends of Chicago River in the early 1990s. The group co-sponsored two watershed public meetings in 1991 and 1992 at the Chicago Botanic Gardens known as “Voices from the Stream: Our Watershed Speaks”. The workshops were dedicated to identifying issues important to North Branch Chicago River watershed stakeholders and providing a vision for the future of the watershed.

The SMC held several public meetings with stakeholder organizations about the two plans, including dozens of municipalities in the planning areas. Stakeholder goals for the North Branch Chicago River plan focus on stream restoration and improvement, runoff volume reduction measures and flood damage reduction, while the stakeholder goals for the Lake Michigan plan center on restoration and stabilization of ravines, wetland restoration, which are considered a high priority due to limited opportunities in the watershed, and urban flooding.