$11 million restoration at Raven Glen should help ease flooding
In the middle of the last century, the southern portion of what is now the Raven Glen Forest Preserve near Antioch was a renowned dairy operation consisting mostly of rolling farmland.
The Raven Glen Farm buildings were demolished years ago and the property repurposed as part of a 575-acre namesake forest preserve assembled in stages and opened in 2007.
Now a pending project will transform the landscape to its original state, as part of continuing efforts to restore ecosystems and ease flooding along 67 miles of the Des Plaines River watershed from southern Wisconsin and in Lake and Cook counties.
An $11 million federal earmark announced this week by Sen. Dick Durbin will allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in coordination with the Lake County Forest Preserve District, to restore Pollack Lake- and Hastings Creek-related wetlands at Raven Glen.
Increased urban development and modifications, such as installing drain tiles to allow farming, over time have changed the natural habitat and hydrology of water along the Upper Des Plaines River, experts say.
"These changes have had significant detrimental impacts on the flow of water and the strength and diversity of the ecosystems in the watershed, severely impacting neighborhoods in the region," Durbin said in announcing the grant.
Projects like these will restore ecosystems and protect communities from flooding at the same time, he added.
They also are intended to improve the quality and size of natural ecosystems and restore connections between natural spaces.
Other benefits include restoring habitats for threatened and endangered species, controlling invasive species, improving water quality and enhancing recreational opportunities.
The Raven Glen project will encompass 429 acres, which is much of the forest preserve area.
The distribution and movement of water will be restored by placing valves on drain tiles as well as grading, installing riffles and taking other actions to allow the creek to meander.
"It is re-meandering Hastings Creek and restoring what would have been the original hydrology and make sure we're not flooding our neighbors," said Pati Vitt, the forest preserves' director of natural resources.
Repairing the water flow in turn will allow native lake, marsh, wet meadow and prairie, dry prairie and woodland plant species to be reestablished. Work would include removing invasive species and sowing native seed and live plugs.
"There have been so many flood events that have affected the entire Des Plaines River corridor. This is one of many projects to provide flood mitigation for the entire watershed," she said.
Projects of this type are becoming more important given recent and expected increases in the number and intensity of rainstorms, say those involved in these types of restorations.
"We need a way to hold that water in place longer so the storm surge is released slower," Vitt said. Restoring wetland basins and active flood plains will be part of the work at Raven Glen, which is west of Route 45 south of Route 173.
A site assessment to include wetland delineation, for example, and engineering will precede the work.
"Construction isn't even on the horizon until at least 2024," according to Vitt.
Other projects in the Des Plaines watershed are pending. Visit lrc.usace.army.mil.