Communications from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' Coastal Management Program
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IDNR Coastal Management Program 

May 2020 Newsletter

April Storm Exacerbates Coastal Erosion 
A slow-moving storm system moved into our area on April 29th, bringing heavy rain and high winds that lasted through the 30th. The system’s powerful northwest winds caused massive waves atop record-high water levels on Lake Michigan. The National Weather Service issued lakeshore flood warnings and advisories in our region beginning on the evening of the 29th and running through the 30th in anticipation of 45-55mph wind gusts that were expected to produce 8-12 foot waves with some reaching 16 feet or more. (WGN, NBC)

The wind and waves took a significant toll on our shoreline. Although we weren’t able to travel far to survey the damage due to the current Stay at Home orders, our staff and program partners shared instances of flooding and erosion they observed along the lakeshore in their own neighborhoods or on IDNR properties. We received reports of dramatic erosion and flooding due to a combination of high water levels, high winds, and large waves, including coastal flooding at Clark Street Park in Evanston and severe parking lot damage at Sunrise Beach in Lake Bluff. Further north, colleagues at Illinois Beach State Park shared photos of severe erosion along their shoreline where they have already been employing emergency nourishment to protect coastal infrastructure and habitat against record high lake levels. (Check out recent WBEZ coverage of erosion at IBSP). 

A range of natural and structural shore protection strategies exist to protect shorelines from storm damage. Beach nourishment is a commonly implemented solution to mitigate long-term erosion, provide habitat, and reduce storm damage to coastal communities. It involves placing sand along the dry upper portion of the beach profile using machinery or other equipment. Beach nourishment projects by design include an extra volume of sand intended to be transported offshore to protect the coastline from major storm events. The added sand serves as a first layer of defense and offers protection to infrastructure behind the beach.

 At Lee Street Beach in Evanston, a recent nourishment project undertaken on April 28th (pictured top right) was almost unrecognizable on May 1 (pictured bottom right) following two days of intense wind and waves. While the impact of the recent storm to the beach profile was dramatic, you can see how the nourishment project offered protection to prevent even more costly infrastructure damage to the lakeshore path, drinking fountain, and park benches directly behind Lee Street Beach. Without planned and emergency nourishment projects, our Lake Michigan shoreline would look unrecognizable and coastal communities would be burdened with the high costs to repair or relocate damaged infrastructure during these extended periods of high lake levels.

Typically, lake levels recede in the winter before beginning their seasonal rise in the spring and through the summer. However, Lake Michigan saw limited retreat this past winter due to mild weather conditions and has recorded new record high levels each month since January. While we grappled with near-record high lake levels last spring and summer, Lake Michigan is currently entering the warmer, wetter season 10 inches higher than last year. It is projected that water levels will be 3-8 inches higher than last year through September (USACE).

As these changes occur, our program continues (now virtually) to coordinate with federal, state, and local agencies to implement shoreline protection projects, monitor shoreline change at erosion hotspots, stay up to date on emerging science on coastal dynamics, and plan for shoreline resiliency in the long term. If you have photos or videos from any recent storm events in your archives (we ask that you do not venture out to take new photos at this time), please send them over to and help us advance this important work!

Welcome New Coastal Geologist, Robin Mattheus!

Coastal geologist Robin Mattheus recently joined the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS), part of the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute. His position will help support the IDNR Coastal Management Program and he will be involved in a variety of research efforts along the shores of Lake Michigan. Robin obtained his Ph.D. in Marine Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he focused on coastal sediment transport and the evolution of coastal rivers, estuaries, and marshes.

Before coming to Illinois, Robin worked for the Delaware State Geological Survey, where he was involved in offshore geologic mapping for sand assessment purposes. This work specifically focused on finding offshore sand resources for beach nourishment. The theme of sand replenishment is one that resonates with most coastal states, including Illinois, and Robin is excited to get involved in sand management-related work here.

Having grown up in southern Germany’s alpine region, his passion for the coastal environment was kindled by summer vacations to the shores of Scandinavia. Once in college at the University of Alabama, he gravitated towards the Geosciences and became involved in undergraduate research with the Sedimentology group and, eventually, stayed on for a M.S. degree in Geology, studying buried valleys beneath Gulf Coast estuaries. He has been up to his neck in mud and sand ever since, gaining familiarity in a variety of coastal environments, from the U.S. mid-Atlantic to several of the Great Lakes. He enjoys spending time in the outdoors and is both a winter sports and surfing enthusiast.

Robin is looking forward to getting involved in CMP activities and projects, meeting partners, and helping to promote coastal awareness and resiliency. As part of the Sand Management Working Group, he is currently helping to develop a series of coastal fact sheets for the State of Illinois, which is getting him up to speed on the scientific literature of the area. He is also getting research projects underway that will contribute to ongoing ISGS efforts aimed at a better understanding of how our coastal environment functions and responds to human and climatic forces. His office is currently located in the North Point Marina administration building in Winthrop Harbor. Please feel free to touch base with him:

IDNR Seeking Public Comments on Proposed Removal of Beneficial Use Impairment at Waukegan Harbor Area of Concern - Accepted through June 12, 2020

In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated Waukegan Harbor, Illinois as an Area of Concern as a result of contamination from long-lasting chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and heavy metals. These chemicals contaminants have negatively impacted Waukegan Harbor and the surrounding area, leading to the identification of six human and ecological health hazards  referred to as Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs). These BUIs were targeted for aggressive clean-up and restoration and to date, the efforts of multiple federal, state, and local partners have resulted in the removal of four of these BUIs: Beach Closings, Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat, Restriction on Dredging Activities, and Degradation of Benthic Invertebrates. Now, the IDNR Coastal Management Program is recommending the removal of a fifth hazard, the Degradation of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton Populations BUI. We are soliciting public comments on the Plankton BUI removal document in preparation for the final submission to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. To submit comments, fill out and submit this survey. Public comments will be accepted until 5 PM CST June 12, 2020. 

Engage on Great Lakes Issues
Clean, safe, and abundant: Solutions for stormwater and water quality
May 19, 2020, 3:30 to 5 p.m. CST
Catch the final event in the Water Resilience in Good Times & Bad virtual series, co-hosted by Elevate Energy, MPC and NRDC, tomorrow afternoon! Find more information and register here.

MI Sea Grant Great Lakes H.O.M.E.S @ Home series
The HOMES @ Home series continues to support Great Lakes exploration and learning from home with their family learning series and #LakeEffects Film Series.The family learning webinar series is full of Great Lakes fun facts, activity suggestions for your family, and daily challenges. Geared for families with scalable activities from younger to older learners, each lesson features different Great Lakes content and hands-on activities you can do right at home. Videos will be live streamed and recorded on Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30-10am. Watch live or find archived videos, along with lots of other great MI Sea Grant videos and activities, on their website.
Also available through the H.O.M.E.S @ Home page are links to Great Lakes clips and documentaries featured during last month’s #LakeEffects Film Series.

Alliance for the Great Lakes H.O.M.E. School
Do you have kids who are learning at home, or do you know someone who does? Be sure to check out AGL’s H.O.M.E.School, featuring free online videos and activities about the Great Lakes for kids in grades K-8. So far, they’ve covered maps, watersheds, habitats, and had some fun Earth Week challenges for the whole household. New lessons premiere on their website and Facebook every Monday at 9:30 a.m. Learn more, find lessons, and sign up for a weekly reminder here.

Check out the IIPD interactive map and provide feedback
The Illinois International Port District (IIPD), with technical assistance from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), is developing a Port Master Plan. This plan will recommend strategies for future development at the Port, considering opportunities across industrial, commercial, recreational, and open space projects. You are invited to check out the interactive IIPD map and provide feedback here.

Is your community prepared for the next flood?
This timely question was covered in a recent CMAP update. Check out the update here, which includes important questions for communities to consider about flood and storm response during social distancing.
Funding and Technical Assistance 

NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research Federal Funding Opportunity
(These grants are also available for Great Lakes work!)
The NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) is soliciting ocean exploration proposals to support projects that provide data and information that may inform ocean-related segments of the U.S. economy through mapping, characterization, and exploration of the deep seafloor and water column of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as well as marine cultural heritage in U.S. waters. Proposals are being requested on the following three topics: ocean exploration, marine archaeology, and technology. The deadline for the pre-proposal submission is June 18, 2020. The full proposal will be due on October 22, 2020. Learn more here.

Forest Service GLRI Grants
As one of 16 GLRI regional working group members, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service awards competitive grants to assist organizations and communities who are taking creative approaches to improve habitats and water quality. The Forest Service anticipates up to $4.2 million in new funds will be available for tree planting and forest health improvement in the Great Lakes Basin. This funding will be awarded to the highest ranked proposals received through the June 26, 2020 deadline at (Grant Opportunity Number USDA-FS-2020-GLRI). Learn more here

Chi-Cal Rivers Fund 2020
The Chi–Cal Rivers Fund will offer approximately $1 million in competitive grant funding in 2020. Grant funding in 2020 will be awarded in three categories: Habitat Quality, Green Stormwater Infrastructure, and Public Access. To reduce the overall level of effort required for applicants to be considered for funding, the Fund will eliminate the pre-proposal phase in 2020 and request applicants submit a streamlined full proposal. The 2020 Request for Proposals will be released on May 20. Streamlined full-proposals will be due on July 9, 2020

Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program
The National Park Service has announced the opening of the application process for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program (ORLP), a nationally competitive grant program funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The ORLP offers grants specifically to help create and improve state and local parks and other outdoor recreation areas particularly in under-served communities. Learn more and apply here (Opportunity Number: P20AS00029). Applications are due by July 10, 2020.   

Keep America Beautiful Community Restoration and Resiliency Fund
Keep America Beautiful’ s Community Restoration and Resiliency Fund benefits Keep America Beautiful Affiliates that serve communities directly affected by natural and environmental disasters. The fund provides immediate and long-term support for initial and ongoing cleanup efforts and helps rebuild vital public spaces: parks, greenways, community gateways, Main Street/downtown areas, open spaces and more. Applications accepted on a rolling basis. Learn more here.  
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The IDNR Coastal Management Program is dedicated to protecting and enhancing the environmental, economic, and social value of Illinois’ Great Lakes coast. We invest in building healthy ecosystems and resilient communities by providing expertise, funding, and other resources for community-driven and forward-thinking efforts within our Lake Michigan coastal region.
Copyright © 2020 Illinois Department of Natural Resources' Coastal Management Program, All rights reserved.

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