Posted on December 15, 2011 1:22 PM
Water 2050 Update, 12-15-11
Progress from CMAP
Watershed planning.CMAP’s watershed planning activity in the Fox River Basin is coming to a successful close. Final draft plans for Silver Creek/Sleepy Hollow Creek, Ferson-Otter Creek, and Blackberry Creek are due to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) on December 31, 2011. Draft plans and executive summary documents have already been approved by IEPA, and CMAP staff are preparing for meetings this month that will end the current phase of planning.
The newly formed Ferson-Otter Creek Watershed Coalition will meet on December 19 with CMAP staff and our local watershed coordinator and outreach manager, The Conservation Foundation (TCF), in South Elgin. The Silver Creek/Sleepy Hollow Watershed Coalition, also newly formed, will meet with CMAP and our local watershed coordinator and outreach manager, The Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, on December 20 in Crystal Lake. CMAP and TCF staff will meet with Blackberry Creek stakeholders on December 20 in Sugar Grove. Details about the upcoming meeting venues can be found on the Fox River Ecosystem Partnership’s (FREP) website. FREP will continue to update news and information about these and other watershed planning activities through 2012 via a one-year contract extension with CMAP.
Lake Zurich water supply planning. CMAP continues to work on water resource management for Lake Zurich as part of a team led by the Metropolitan Planning Council. Other partners on this project include the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) and Center for Neighborhood Technology. The What Our Water’s Worth (WOWW) campaign website recently profiled Lake Zurich. The water resources management team is in the process of preparing its final report to present to the village this winter. This project is also part of CMAP's Local Techincal Assistance program.
Water rates. CMAP’s water resource economist has convened a Water Pricing Advisory Committee to help guide the development of a forthcoming white paper that aims to address full-cost water pricing. The committee met this fall to discuss moving the region forward toward full-cost water pricing, which would enable the continued provision of safe, reliable water service to residents. As part of their work, the pricing advisory committee has reviewed a draft document that will frame the complex issue of water pricing and will serve to inform efforts in the region to implement full cost pricing of water services, building upon previous water rates work conducted in northeastern Illinois. To learn more, contact Margaret Schneemann (MSchneemann@cmap.illinois.gov).
Progress in the Region
Water infrastructure investment. The City of Chicago’s recently approved water-rate increase, a component of the City's 2012 budget, will affect many communities throughout the region. However, it is important that future rate-increase discussions include the plans necessary to address the region’s water infrastructure maintenance needs. As identified in Water 2050, there are great opportunities to improve both conservation and efficiency of the region’s use of our water resources. CMAP staff wrote an October Policy Update to help inform some of these ongoing discussions, including general perceptions of the value of water and the ongoing need to recalibrate such perceptions.
New water quality standards for Chicago River system. In November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) announced its approval of new water quality standards for the Chicago River system. The U.S. EPA had notified the State of Illinois in May that revised water quality standards would be necessary to protect the health of recreational users of the river system. As noted in The Economist, the Chicago River system is increasingly gaining importance as a recreational resource among residents and tourists. The new standards apply to five branches of the river system, including the North and South Branches of the Chicago River, the North Shore Channel, the Cal-Sag Channel, and the Little Calumet River. Revised standards for the Chicago Area Waterway System and the Lower Des Plaines River proposed by the State are still under review by U.S. EPA.
Mayors commit to Great Lakes restoration. During its December meeting, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative passed a resolution committing member mayors to promoting green urban restoration. “I am committed to the restoration and revitalization of the Chicago River as the City’s next recreational frontier, as well as the protection of the Lake Michigan shoreline,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, who also hosted the meeting. Other local cities involved with the initiative include Evanston, Highland Park, and Waukegan.
Water quality initiatives.On October 28, U.S. EPA announced the development of an integrated planning process to achieve clean water more efficiently and cost effectively. The new approach is intended to help municipalities prioritize infrastructure investments to address water quality issues. It will focus on multi-benefit solutions that improve water quality and enhance community vitality, e.g. green infrastructure practices. The U.S. Geological Survey has also released an initiative to provide decision support for water quality improvements. The Spatially Referenced Regressions on Watershed attributes model (SPARROW) details nutrient conditions in each region of the country (Northeast/Mid-Atlantic, Midwest/Central, and Eastern Regions) based on geospatial data on soils, land use, fertilizer, manure, wastewater, and other watershed characteristics. The decision support system allows users to “evaluate combinations of source reduction scenarios that target one or multiple sources of nutrients and see the change in the amount of nutrients transported to downstream waters -- a capability that has not been widely available in the past,” according to Stephen Preston, USGS hydrologist and coordinator for the regional models.
New IISG brochure and RFP. IISG released a brochure of program impacts, including progress on green infrastructure, water conservation, and more. IISG has an ongoing partnership with CMAP to implement the Water 2050 plan recommendations. IISG has also issued a request for pre-proposals (RFP) for development research projects relevant to Lake Michigan. For questions on the RFP, contact Carolyn Foley.
RFP for Urban Waters Small Grants.The U.S. EPA announced $1.8 million to $3.8 million in funding for urban water restoration. The funding is part of U.S. EPA’s Urban Waters program, supporting community efforts improve urban waters and the surrounding land. U.S. EPA expects to award the grants in summer 2012, and the application deadline is January 23, 2012.
Septic system improvements.On November 8, 2011, U.S. EPA signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with 16 partner organizations to promote collaboration in septic system improvements. The objective of the MOU is to improve system performance through enhanced management practices and technology transfer, expanded accountability and oversight, and improved local decision making through additional public awareness, education, and information programs. A majority of existing septic systems are over 30 years old, with a significant percentage currently malfunctioning. Malfunctioning septic systems are considered potential sources of fecal coliform contamination in the region’s rivers and streams. This collaboration may serve as a model for addressing septic system impairment at the local level. Read more at WaterWorld.
Changes to WaterSense. The U.S. EPA released a Notification of Intent to modify the WaterSense Final Specification for Single Family New Homes, including the removal of the 40 percent turfgrass restriction for landscaping, among other changes. Send comments on the proposed modifications to email@example.com. Read more at Lawn & Landscape.
National water infrastructure legislation. In response to aging national water infrastructure, the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced H.R. 3154, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2011, on October 11. This legislation proposes a five-year $13.8 billion investment in water quality improvements. The bill would establish a new water infrastructure loan guarantee program and, along with a proposed Clean Water Trust Fund, is intended to leverage billions of dollars to meet local water infrastructure needs. The Clean Water Trust Fund would be used to encourage projects that utilize green infrastructure approaches, energy or water efficiency improvements, and the implementation of best management practices or measures identified in an approved nonpoint source management program under section 319. These proposals support recommendations from both the Water 2050 plan and concurrent watershed planning efforts along the Fox River.
Clean Water Act clarification on “Waters of the United States.” Last year, U.S. EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued draft guidance for clear guidelines to determine which water bodies should be protected under the Clean Water Act. Following public comment on these guidelines, a mandate emerged for U.S. EPA to propose a rule clarifying U.S. waters protected under the Clean Water Act. Now, the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers are in the process of defining this rule and anticipate a public comment period on it in 2012. The rule will focus on protection of smaller tributaries feeding protected waters and wetlands which remove pollutants from water and provide flood control for communities.For updates on the issue, visit http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/wetlands/CWAwaters.cfm.
Natural Lawn Care workshop.Natural lawn care is a solution that can reduce energy, pesticide, fertilizer, and water inputs necessary to have a healthy lawn. On March 21, 2012, the Lawn to Lake program will sponsor a Natural Lawn Care workshop for landscape companies, turf managers, municipalities, and school districts at Indiana University Northwest. The workshop will feature sustainable landscape expert Chip Osborne and the latest in natural lawn care techniques. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn about the latest in natural lawn care techniques and principles, plus explore how to expand your clientele and develop a profitable program. Visit www.spcpweb.org/training for more information about the workshop.
The Lawn to Lake program is a collaborative effort to protect water resources in the Great Lakes by promoting healthy lawn and landscape practices. As part of implementing Water 2050, CMAP has an ongoing partnership with IISG, who, with funding from the U.S EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), is coordinating a pollution prevention campaign addressing the needs of those responsible for lawn and landscape care in the Southern Lake Michigan Basin. Lawn to Lake works with homeowners, schools, Master Gardeners, professionals, retailers, municipalities, and others across our region to change the way we care for our lawns and landscapes. For more information visit www.lawntolake.org/GreatLakes or contact Lawn to Lake program manager Margaret Schneemann (MSchneemann@cmap.illinois.gov).
WWW conference. On February 22 to 23, 2012, the Wisconsin Wetland Association willhost its Urban Wetlands Conference in Lake Geneva, WI for the regional wetland community to discuss science, management, restoration, and protection.