WBEZ | great lakes restoration initiative http://www.wbez.org/tags/great-lakes-restoration-initiative Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Calumet brain trust tackles environmental issues across state line http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/calumet-brain-trust-tackles-environmental-issues-across-state-line <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/marquette-park610px.jpg" title="One of the pannes in Marquette Park, along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Wetlands nestled between lakeshore sand dunes, the fragile ecosystems foster biodiversity. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley) " /></p><p>Although county lines parcel out the southern shore of Lake Michigan like garden plots, the environmental issues that unify people from Michigan City, Ind. to Chicago do not respect political boundaries.</p><p>Nor do most economic issues. Industrial decay and depopulation have left communities throughout the greater <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/calumet" target="_blank">Calumet</a> region with some common problems, as well as shared opportunities.</p><p>That was the message from the inaugural Calumet Summit, a conference convened this week in Gary, Indiana&rsquo;s lakefront Marquette Park by the <a href="http://calumetstewardship.org/" target="_blank">Calumet Stewardship Initiative</a>.</p><p>The summit follows some major moves in the Calumet area, not least of which is the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/millennium-reserve" target="_blank">Millennium Reserve</a> initiative, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/governor-greenlights-funding-nations-largest-open-space-project-105857">dubbed the nation&#39;s largest &quot;open space&quot; project</a>. (Although it might better be described as <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/how-open-millennium-reserve-open-space-project-105925" target="_blank">a regional plan that ties conservation to urban redevelopment</a>.)</p><p>After 140 years of heavy industry, many of the region&rsquo;s factories have closed and left brownfields, violence and unemployment in their wake. And while efforts to rehabilitate the Great Lakes have mopped up some pollution and begun to clamp down on invasive species, a <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/report-card-great-lakes-big-problems-19179661#.UZVhjiuG3Os" target="_blank">report released Tuesday by the international body that advises Canada and U.S. on the lakes said</a> the area still faces serious challenges. Agricultural runoff, flooding, drought, and the march of both invasive species and a changing climate are among the problems that plague people who call the southern end of Lake Michigan home.</p><p>Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said as much Tuesday at the Calumet Summit. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal funding program initiated by President Barack Obama&rsquo;s administration, has enabled environmental work and research in recent years. Perhaps more importantly, Brammeier said, it has brought attention to the region and galvanized those already doing important work on the ground.</p><p>&quot;As important as the money is the near-universal expression of support for the program year after year,&quot; he said.&nbsp;&quot;That&rsquo;s really at the heart of the success in moving money to entities on the ground.&quot;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/keeping-aromatic-invader-bay-107163" target="_blank">Volunteer environmental stewards</a> and <a href="http://www.nirpc.org/2040-plan.aspx" target="_blank">planners alike</a> see a future in green development.</p><p>Few people articulate that vision better than Lauren Riga. Tapped by Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson to head Gary&rsquo;s new department of Green Urbanism, 28-year-old Riga previously served as a U.N. delegate at the 2010 climate change conference. About <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/us/mayor-of-struggling-gary-ind-turns-to-chicagos-richard-daley-for-advice.html" target="_blank">one quarter of Gary&#39;s buildings are vacant</a>. As Riga and the mayor look to spur an economic revival, they plan to incorporate green infrastructure into new development. Meanwhile local and state agencies have helped rehabilitate habitat along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, home to a series of <a href="http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2425735?uid=3739656&amp;uid=2&amp;uid=4&amp;uid=3739256&amp;sid=21102293343277" target="_blank">fragile ecosystems</a> known as pannes &mdash; wetlands nestled between sand dunes.</p><p>&quot;[Riga] represents a new way of thinking for the region,&quot; said Andrew Pelloso, an environmental consultant who formerly worked for Indiana&rsquo;s Department of Environmental Management.</p><p>&quot;Everyone seems to see the region by Gary&rsquo;s fate and fortune so what they do matters,&quot; he said.</p><p>Whether <a href="http://lakeshorepublicmedia.org/east-chicago-sewers-get-a-makeover/" target="_blank">updating Northwest Indiana&#39;s stormwater infrastructure</a> or <a href="http://healthyschoolscampaign.org/blog/green-schoolyards-for-healthy-students-a-new-chicago-initiative/" target="_blank">retrofitting Chicago schoolyards</a>, presenters at the summit emphasized action.</p><p>&quot;Between now and the next summit go out and do something,&quot; U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky told the audience, &quot;or everyone will have wasted their time over the two days.&quot;</p><p>Pelloso said for all the region&rsquo;s challenges, and the bureaucratic headache it can be to get things done, the conference&rsquo;s take-home message was affirming.</p><p>&quot;We&rsquo;re bound together by a common resource,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Not by state lines.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about environmental issues. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 16 May 2013 18:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-05/calumet-brain-trust-tackles-environmental-issues-across-state-line Calumet restoration efforts get influx of cash from feds http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/calumet-restoration-efforts-get-influx-cash-feds-105422 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/virtualphotographers/5129850054/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/calumet.jpg" style="height: 456px; width: 610px;" title="In the Calumet region, Chicago's industrial and ecological histories are deeply intertwined. (virtualphotographers via Flickr)" /></a></p><p>The Forest Preserve District of Cook County announced Wednesday a $520,000 restoration project that will help knit together sensitive ecosystems in the Calumet region, where <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/grand-calumet-river%E2%80%99s-road-recovery-105164">a contaminated river</a> and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/restoring-prairieland-calumets-industrial-corridor-104751">an abundance of invasive species</a> have long threatened <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/question-answered-what-part-chicago-has-most-biodiversity-103725">biodiversity in the Chicago region</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;What is great about this project,&rdquo; said Forest Preserve District Resource Ecologist Dan Spencer, &ldquo;is it takes elements of projects that other agencies have done in the past and puts them into a cohesive whole.&rdquo;</p><p>The targeted sites &mdash; Sand Ridge Nature Preserve,&nbsp;Jurgensen Woods and Green Lake Savanna &mdash; are all within three miles of one another. In addition to clearing out invasive species, the restoration will focus on education. Audubon and Fuller Park Community Development will encourage local conservationists to engage with the site, although details are still being worked out.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve wanted to work at Jurgensen woods for a while but never had the funds to do it,&rdquo; Spencer said. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded the bulk of the money, which come from the Obama Administration&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.glri.us/">Great Lakes Restoration Initiative</a>. Cook County is contributing $160,000, while Audubon will kick in $10,000.</p><p>The four sites span more than 1,000 acres of vulnerable &ldquo;dune and swale&rdquo; ecosystems, composed of interwoven strings of wetlands and dry, sandy ridges.</p><p>When ancient glaciers covering much of the Midwest receded hundreds of thousands of years ago, they dumped their water into Lake Michigan&rsquo;s ancestor, Lake Chicago. The Calumet region&rsquo;s sandy ridges are the geological remains of ancient beaches.</p><p>Work will start in the spring, Spencer said, and the funds must be spent by October of 2014.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GreenLakeSavBrush2012.jpg" style="height: 471px; width: 610px;" title="Green Lake Savanna" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/JurgensenWds%282%292012.jpg" style="height: 471px; width: 610px;" title="Jurgensen Woods" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SRNP_Total_CalumetProject13.jpg" style="height: 471px; width: 610px;" title="Sand Ridge Nature Preserve" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SRNC_TotalCalumet13.jpg" style="height: 789px; width: 610px;" title="Sand Ridge Nature Center" /></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 08 Feb 2013 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/calumet-restoration-efforts-get-influx-cash-feds-105422