Second Phase of Crooked Creek Watershed Restoration Complete

Friends of the Chicago River recently concluded the second phase of a multi-year restoration project in the Palos area upstream of the Cal-Sag Channel, in conjunction with the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC). Friends restored 129 acres of forest preserves from 2020-2022 by removing invasive species. Removing invasive species allows native plant species to return and flourish. Because native plants allow more water to be absorbed where it falls, this restoration reduces the frequency and duration of downstream flood events and erosion. As a result of the project, an additional 2.1 million gallons of stormwater will be infiltrated into the landscape during each one-inch-per-one-hour rain event. When combined with the initial phase of work from 2018-2019, Friends has restored a total of 210 acres in the Crooked Creek watershed. This restoration is part of a 2,000-acre block where the FPCC has removed invasive brush, in addition to other restoration in the Palos area. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Chi-Cal Rivers Fund generously funded both phases of restoration.

FPCC Resource Ecologist Kristin Pink told Friends, “The restoration at Country Lane Woods (Crooked Creek) was the final component of a large-scale restoration project focused around Cranberry Slough Nature Preserve (the FPCC's highest priority site) that began in 2015. Importantly, the project brought the top of Crooked Creek Watershed into restoration such that the creek now flows through a landscape that is nearly fully managed. Additionally, monitoring data shows the area already has reduced bare ground, increased ground layer plant cover, and increased bird diversity and abundance after restoration.” She also emphasized the project’s role in “the ultimate goal… to restore and conserve the entire Crooked Creek Watershed.”

Critically, the project will have benefits for the Hine’s emerald dragonfly that depends on the unique landscape characteristics of the area for habitat. The Hine’s emerald dragonfly has been state-endangered in Illinois since 1991 and on the Federal Endangered Species list since 1995. Industrialization and urbanization have degraded or destroyed much of its habitat in the Chicago area. You can listen to an interview with Hine’s emerald dragonfly expert Marla Garrison in this past episode of Inside, Out and About, Friends’ podcast series.