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News Releases from Region 05

EPA Announces Five Star Urban Waters Grants Totaling $130,000 for Projects in Chicago Area and Northwest Indiana

With support from EPA, community-led projects will restore urban waters and streams, address water quality in priority watersheds

Contact Information: 
Rhiannon Dee (

CHICAGO (Aug. 28, 2019) — Today, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced grants to three organizations in the greater Chicago metropolitan area. The Dunes Learning Center in Indiana will receive $30,000; and in Illinois both the Elmhurst Park District and Morton Arboretum will receive roughly $50,000.

The Chicago area grants were among 46 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program grants awarded this year, totaling $1.7 million to restore wildlife habitat and urban waters in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Grantees have committed an additional $4.4 million in local project support, generating a total investment of more that $6.1 million. This program supports community partnerships that conserve wildlife and restore river, wetland, riparian, forest and coastal ecosystems.

“EPA is pleased to continue our support for this innovative public-private partnership that encourages community stewardship and incentivizes local solutions to today’s environmental and public health challenges,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “These projects will help local communities improve water quality, restore wetlands, and protect wildlife while creating additional recreational opportunities for the surrounding areas.”

“The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program supports community partnerships that restore and enhance our nation’s fish and wildlife, while at the same time improving water quality and habitat for plants and animals,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The 46 grants announced today will help local communities thrive by increasing resilience, improving green infrastructure and supporting the people and wildlife that call these places home.”

“This project will get kids on the water and boots on the ground for environmental stewardship in local communities along the south shore of Lake Michigan,” said Dunes Learning Center Executive Director Geof Benson. “Students have a wonderful time learning about teamwork and water safety as they paddle Voyageur canoes. Then, they have the opportunity to explore the urban forest, discuss threats to our freshwater supply, and make a difference improving natural habitat.”

The Dunes Learning Center will use this funding to connect 3,500 students and teachers with their local waterways and the Lake Michigan watershed. Engaging students, they will restore four acres by removing invasive species, stabilizing steam banks and collecting and dispersing native seeds.

“The Elmhurst Park District and its project partner, the Village of Villa Park, are very pleased to receive the Urban Waters Restoration Program grant funding for the Sugar Creek Restoration Project,” said Brian McDermott, director of Enterprise Services. “We look forward to providing significant environmental benefits for Sugar Creek within the Sugar Creek Golf Course. This will improve water quality, wildlife habitat and aquatic habitat through creek, wetland and pond restoration.”

The Elmhurst Park District will be using their award to stabilize 2,400 linear feet of shoreline at Sugar Creek. Their project will improve aquatic connectivity, implement stream re-meandering on 819 linear feet, construct wetlands, plant native species on 1.8 acres and build five rock riffle structures on the restored stream channel.

“The Chicago Region Trees Initiative, a coalition of nearly 200 organizations working together to improve the urban forest, was founded by The Morton Arboretum in 2014. We have collected one of the largest datasets on urban forestry in the country and we are using this data to inform where and how we work to improve quality of life in communities,” said Lydia Scott, director of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative. “We are thrilled to partner with NFWF to provide trees, capacity building, and improve ecological, mental and physical health to people and wildlife in the Chicago region.”

Using these grants funds, the Morton Arboretum will provide education and outreach to under resourced communities in the region, plant 50 native trees, and will train community members to care for trees on their properties.

The grant is awarded through the NFWF’s Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program, which support projects that develop community stewardship of natural resources and address water quality issues in priority watersheds across the country. Support for the 2019 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program is provided by the Wildlife Habitat Council, and major funding by EPA, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fedex, Shell Oil Company, Southern Company and BNSF Railway.

The 2019 grant winners were selected from a highly competitive pool of more than 190 applications. A full list of 2019 projects are available here.

Since 1999, the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program has supported almost a thousand projects, with more than $12.8 million in federal funds, $11.3 million in private and corporate contributions, and $78.8 million in matching funds at the local level.

For more information about the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grant program, visit