$630,000 to Build Climate Resilience

With $630,000 in grant funding for planning, vast stands of native aquatic plants like those planted along the Fox River are possible for the Chicago-Calumet River system.

Friends of the Chicago River is proud to be the recipient of a $630,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s National Coastal Resilience Fund which will allow Friends to develop an installation-ready engineering and design plan for the Chicago-Calumet River system employing aquatic habitat.

Using Friends’ GIS-based bathymetric (mapping) data of the river system’s riverbed, its depth, and edge conditions, the natural solutions based resiliency plan project will identify where the installation of thousands of native aquatic plants would build resiliency against the impacts of increased weather severity due to climate change by stabilizing the shoreline against erosion and slowing the flow of the water as it enters the river. It will also restore natural habitat required for fish, fowl, mammals, macroinvertebrates, and other species allowing them to thrive in the recovering river system.

The Coastal Resilience grant builds upon the successful work Friends began through a $105,000 Chi-Cal Rivers Fund habitat enhancement award in 2015 that we used to pilot native plant species reintroduction. The species chosen had been tested by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in the Fox River and were found capable of withstanding the unpredictable water levels in the Chicago-Calumet river system caused by urban conditions and the large volume of stormwater runoff. This work has continued through Friends’ popular Paddle and Plant program, through which with the Shedd Aquarium we have engaged volunteers to install thousands more plants in the Little Calumet River, the North Branch, and the North Shore Channel. These plantings are not only self-sustaining but also spread by rhizome to create vast colonies as demonstrated in Aurora above.

By next fall, Friends will have produced a plan to determine where plantings and associated habitat will be most implementable. The plan would also identify locations for erosion control measures and floating habitat, where instream planting solutions would not be successful. The completed plan would allow Friends to have a “shovel ready” designed and ready so we can apply for next phase funding and implement plantings throughout the entire river.

Established in 2018, the National Coastal Resilience Fund invests in projects that restore, increase, and strengthen natural infrastructure to protect coastal communities while enhancing habitats for fish and wildlife. Illinois became part of the federal coastal program administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2012.