Program Updates - Northwest Indiana
Local Urban Waters partners secured grants totaling over $2 million. Federal partners provided direct assistance in preparing proposals that secured over $400,000. (These estimates are conservative and do not include the substantial in-kind and cash match leveraged by partners.) Funds benefited more than 15 communities throughout the NWI region. This increase in grant funding from previous years reflects years of Urban Waters effort to communicate opportunities and priorities, increase organizational capacities, and encourage higher quality grant applications. NPS, USEPA, and USFS were able to secure agency funds to support local priority projects, such as Canoemobile and habitat restoration in the Deep River Watershed.
CommuniTree and Urban Forestry
Over 2,000 trees were planted by many partners through the CommuniTree program, an outgrowth of NWI Urban Waters with significant support from USFS. Communities planted nearly 800 trees and received training through a grant program administered by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC). Young adults from NWI gained valuable urban forestry skills, working to plant and maintain 1,200 trees with the help of hundreds of local volunteers as part of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) Calumet Tree Conservation Corps. Nearly 400 volunteers contributed over 1,000 hours of service. Wildlife Habitat Council planted hundreds of trees on industrial lands with the help of industry employees and volunteers.
NWI partners also received trees through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Community and Urban Forestry (CUF) program. CommuniTree organized a series of free workshops to increase urban forestry capacity and expertise in NWI. Lindsay Darling, Chicago Region Trees Initiative GIS and Data Specialist presented a tree Inventory workshop, and Carrie Tausher, IDNR CUF Coordinator, presented a tree ordinance workshop.
Urban Waters Learning Network Award
Congratulations to Nicole Messacar, LaPorte County SWCD Education Coordinator. Nicole received the Urban Waters Learning Network Expert Award for Environmental Education. Nicole grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan and the banks of Trail Creek. Nicole serves on the Trail Creek Watershed Partnership, and coordinates Trail Creek Week and Kankakee River Days, two five-day, place-based environmental education events. Over the course of three weeks, she introduces at least 2,000 students to their local waterways. Nicole serves on the City of LaPorte Park and Recreation Board where she coordinates the Natural Resources Advisory Committee and spends time helping the Park Department with their natural resources planning.
Watershed Education and Canoemobile
2018 marked the sixth year of Wilderness Inquiry’s Canoemobile in NWI. More than 4,500 students and residents experienced their urban waters from the seat of a 24-foot voyageur canoe. Dunes Learning Center (DLC) incorporates Canoemobile into their watershed education experiences, and LaPorte County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) incorporates Canoemobile into Trail Creek Week and Kankakee River Days. Many partners worked to secure funding, coordinate logistics, and provide environmental education stations on topics such as fisheries, urban forestry, water safety, and more. NPS and USEPA provided partial funding for Canoemobile. The Michigan City High School Environmental Restoration Team, an outgrowth of the Trail Creek Week, continued restoration efforts at Hansen Park, including invasive species removal and native plantings in a swale.
Many other partners provided water-related education to local youth and residents. For example, about 9,500 students participated in Porter County SWCD educational programs. Izaak Walton League Porter County Chapter sponsored several family nature nights at various Porter County elementary schools, engaged volunteers in citizen science through the Save Our Streams water testing program, and provided educational booths at local events. The Lake Michigan Coastal Program (LMCP) coordinated Coastal Awareness Month in June, featuring 70 events hosted by 26 organizations, including many Urban Waters partners. Urban Waters partners also participated in several educational events and festivals, such as the Hobart Water Festival. Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and partners developed the Master Watershed Steward program, which will recruit and train volunteers for local efforts. Several Urban Waters partners contributed to curriculum development and planning.
EAST BRANCH OF THE LITTLE CALUMET RIVER (EBLC)
Partners, including DLC, NPS, NWIPA, Save the Dunes, and Shirley Heinze Land Trust (SHLT) continued collaborating to protect and restore the EBLC and to promote paddling access. In 2018 the partners installed two canoe/kayak launches. Porter County IWLA continued wetland restoration at their Frame Property, purchased the McCloskey ravines property, and partnered with a Boy Scout troop to build an observation platform at the Carol Cook Wetland Overlook. SHLT and partners developed a strategy for protecting and restoring of wetlands along the EBLC.
The MCHS Wolves Environmental Restoration Team Earns Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence
Congratulations to Michigan City High School's environmental restoration team on receiving the 2017 Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence! The team of about 30 students works in Hansen Park, cleaning up trash, planting trees and testing water among other actives to restore the park. Many NWI Urban Waters Partners are integral to this successful project, including the LaPorte County Soil and Water Conservation District, Michigan City Park Department, Save the Dunes, and others.
Aquatic Habitat Restoration Groundbreaking
The City of East Chicago held a groundbreaking ceremony for aquatic habitat restoration at Jeorse Park Beach on May 30. This project affords the opportunity to address beach closures and loss of fish and wildlife habitat. The US Army Corps of Engineers should complete construction by September 2021. The project, expected to support 19 new jobs in private industry, was funded with USEPA-managed Great Lakes Restoration Initiative appropriations.
2017 kickoff meeting
On April 24, 2017, the Northwest Indiana Urban Waters federal partners met in Chicago to discuss each agency's current and planned projects and identified opportunities for Partnership involvement. The meeting included 16 participants representing Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, National Park Service, Senator Donnelly's office, Economic Development Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, Forest Service, and US Geological Survey. The group discussed current and upcoming projects impacting Northwest Indiana's urban waters.
CommuniTree Program Launches in East Chicago
In celebration of Arbor Day, the CommuniTree program was launched in East Chicago on April 26, 2017. CommuniTree developed out of a conversation during an Urban Waters meeting about the need for tree planting resources in Northwest Indiana. Led by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, CommuniTree has support from local industry and a wide range of public and non-profit partners.
Partners in action after US Steel spill
Urban Waters leads in Northwest Indiana have been providing information to local stakeholders about a hexavalent chromium spill at U.S. Steel in Portage, IN. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emergency responders continued a second day of intensive water sampling efforts following U.S. Steel's report that its Portage, IN facility had released hexavalent chromium to Burns Waterway - about 100 yards from Lake Michigan. U.S. Steel has reported to EPA that its release has been stopped at the source.
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Welcome Jen Birchfield, new Urban Waters Ambassador
The Northwest Indiana Partnership has hired a new Urban Waters Ambassador, Jen Birchfield. Birchfield was formerly the Water Program Director for a local non-profit member of this partnership, Save the Dunes. Welcome, Jen!
Planning 2017 in Northwest Indiana
January 27 - At the quarterly partnerhsip meeting for the Northwest Indiana Partnership, discussion consisted of the work plan for the coming year and the introduction of the new Urban Waters Ambassador. The annual federal agency partners' meeting, which has proven fruitful for discussing the status and direction of the partnership and for exchanging information about program and funding opportunities, is being planned for March.
Congratulations Brenda Scott-Henry
Congratulations to Brenda Scott-Henry, Director of Gary Indiana's Department of Green Urbanism and Stormwater, a member of this Urban Waters Partnership. Brenda was recently featured in the US Departmet of Agriculture's Profiles in Conservation. The five-page article describes Brenda's journey from community activist to environmental champion.
NWI Partners included in Society of Innovators
The Society of Innovators of Northwest Indiana at Ivy Tech Community College recently announced 39 new individuals and teams to be inducted into the Society. Of the new inductees, several Urban Waters Partners were recognized, including: the Dunes Learning Center, Grand Calumet River Partners in Restoration, Miller Beach Arts & Creative District, and Trail Creek Watershed Partnership. The Society of Innovators recognizes individuals and teams that propose a new and different idea, implement the idea, and contribute to the greater good. These innovators strengthen the region's economy and quality of life, making Northwest Indiana a better place to live.
Regional Urban Forestry Plan for Northwest Indiana
The Urban Waters Parners Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, Northern Indiana Public Services Company (NIPSCO), the Indiana Lake Michigan Coastal Program, and USDA Forest Service met with members of the Chicago Region Trees Initiation (CRTI) to discuss developing a Regional Urban Forestry Plan for Northwest Indiana. The CRTI is a collaboration of Chicago region partners working together to develop and implement a strategy that builds a healthier and more diverse urban forest by 2040. By following their example and being guided under their leadership, Northwest Indiana Urban Waters Partners intend to develop the first urban forestry plan that spans the Indiana Lake Michigan watershed. This plan will include urban tree cnaopy goals for the region as well as for cities, field based inventories and assessments, and suggest best management practices.
The Northwest Indiana Paddling Association hosted the 8th Annual Rendezvous. The event featured a sneak peak of the documentary "Shifting Sands - On the Path to Sustainability" followed by disscusion with Everglades of the North film-maker Patty Wisniewski and her team.
River Use Management Plan
In 2014, the National Park Service (NPS) initiated the planning and environmental assessment process for a River Use Management Plan for the East Branch of the Little Calumet River (EBLC) located within Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The decision to initiate this planning effort resulted from discussions at some of the earliest URban Waters Partnership meetings. The plan, which will evaluate potential recreational uses of the EBLC for approximately eight river miles within the National Lakeshore to its Lake Michigan destination, is scheduled to be completed May 2016. Partners can anticipate a public meeting to review the draft document April 2016. This effort is made possible through collaborations among the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, Save the Dunes, Northwest Indiana Paddling Association, and the Urban Waters Ambassador.