Area of Concern Habitat Restoration

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Restoration Projects

The passage of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) by Congress in 2010 initiated many significant steps in the remediation of the Grand Calumet River / Indiana Harbor Ship Canal Area of Concern (AOC). The GLRI has provided millions of dollars in aid to the Great Lakes, with specific support for the restoration of the AOCs.

Through GLRI funding, over 900 acres of habitat restoration is taking place in the Grand Calumet River AOC, which will provide dune and swale habitat for many species, including Karner blue butterfly, Blanding’s turtle, spotted turtle, and various migratory birds.

Habitat Restoration Planning

In February and March of 2014, the IDEM Remedial Action Plan coordinator met with the multiple land-managing organizations of the Grand Calumet River and Indiana Harbor Ship Canal AOC to develop a list of the habitat sites and document additional restoration needs at those sites. The product of those meetings was the 2014 Grand Calumet River Area of Concern Habitat Report [PDF]. This report also led to the establishment of the list of management action items deemed necessary to remove Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) 3 and 14.

Habitat Restoration Actions

In April 2015, IDEM submitted a habitat management action letter to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). The letter proposed the following five projects be completed by the end of 2020 in order to restore habitat function to the AOC:

  1. Dune, Swale, and Riverine Wetlands Restoration:
    • This five-year project between IDEM, the Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and the Lake County Parks and Recreation Department, began in September 2015. It consists of removal of dense stands of woody and non-woody nuisance and invasive plants, fine-grained herbicide treatment of resprouts, and seeding and planting of native species on 900 acres of state- and locally-managed habitat [PDF].
  2. Grand Calumet Riverine Corridor Restoration:
    • This project, which is still in the development phase, will consist of invasive species herbicide control along the East Branch of Grand Calumet River in the vicinity of the Gary International Airport. The goal of this project is to reduce invasive species seed sources upstream of the sites restored in the other four management action projects.
  3. Lake George Habitat Restoration:
    • The objective of this project is to restore approximately 80 acres east of Calumet Avenue in Hammond through 2019. Woody and non-woody nuisance and invasive plants will be controlled by herbicide application and prescribed burning.
  4. AOC-Wide Long-term Prescribed Burn Plan:
    • This management action item entails the development and execution of 26 prescribed burn plans, covering approximately 860 acres of managed lands in the AOC. This effort is coordinated through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and local stakeholders and experts.
  5. Pine Station Nature Preserve Ponds and Meander Restoration:
    • The eastern portion of the Pine Station Nature Preserve consists of remnant dune and swale topography which has been heavily damaged by industrial processes. This has resulted in two large, deep borrow pits and a mix of sand and industrial materials, including fly ash, left in random piles throughout the site. In addition, the adjacent meander portion of the Grand Calumet River has lost much of the native wetland areas. This project is currently undergoing a feasibility study by the United States Army Corps of Engineers and USFWS to examine ways to restore this portion of the river.