Habitat Restoration in Priority Coastal Areas: Powderhorn Lake

Located just outside the western border of the Calumet Area of Concern in the southeast side of Chicago, IL, Powderhorn Lake is a 50-acre freshwater lake with an adjacent 55-acre shallow pool, owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC). To the north lies Wolf Lake, a 950-acre freshwater lake, owned by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). Powderhorn Lake is embedded within one of the few remaining examples of the dune and swale topography that once characterized the Calumet Region along the south shore of Lake Michigan. Once connected as part of a large collection of marshes, lakes, and rivers adjacent to Lake Michigan, these lakes have been isolated by urban and industrial development. Despite their isolation, populations of aquatic species characteristic of the Great Lakes basin persist. However, the impacts of isolation threaten their future survival. Currently, Powderhorn Lake remains separated from its northern neighbor, Wolf Lake, which connects to Lake Michigan through the Indian Creek pathway to Calumet River.

Environmental Benefits:

  • Restored hydrological connectivity between Powderhorn Lake and Wolf Lake
  • Restored fish passage
  • Improve emergent wetland habitat

Community Benefits:

  • Improved water quality and ecosystem health
  • Created aesthetically beautiful sites
  • Increased water-based recreation, sport-fishing, and wildlife viewing
  • Reduced storm-water runoff and erosion

Economic Benefits:

  • Improved fishing and fish spawning
  • Improved water quality and ecosystem health
  • Reduced flooding of adjacent neighborhood

Powderhorn Lake Habitat Restoration Project

Powderhorn Lake viewed from the West (Photo provided by Forest Preserves of Cook County)

The engineering design for this project is currently underway and being managed locally by Audubon Great Lakes (Audubon) and Forest Preserves of Cook County. The project was just announced as part of the 2019 NOAA-GLC partnership and will commence in fall of 2019. The engineering and design is currently at 90% design phase and will be finalized once a project management contractor is hired. The restoration design is anticipated to restore connectivity between Powderhorn Lake and Wolf Lake to the north, by way of an installed water control structure and series of connecting habitats that will allow for fish passage between the two lakes and, ultimately, the Lake Michigan aquatic ecosystem.

Funding

Over $1 million has been awarded to this project from the  Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) from both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Great Lakes Commisssion Regional Partnership. The GLRI is a federal program designed to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world — the Great Lakes.

For More Information

Eric Ellis
Coastal Conservation and Habitat Restoration
Project Manager, Great Lakes Commission
734‐396‐6089
[email protected]

Nathaniel Miller
Acting Executive Director; Director of Conservation
Audubon Great Lakes
312-453-0230 (Ext. 2006)
[email protected]

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