PUBLIC BEACH PROTECTION PILOT PROGRAM

The Army Corps of Engineers has approved the Pilot Project for Section 1122 for communities in Glencoe, Lake Bluff, North Chicago, and Evanston!

Update, July 31, 2020: Public review begins for dredged material pilot project draft feasibility study 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District posted a draft feasibility report, Public Beach Protection in Four Illinois Coastal Communities Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Pilot Project, for a 30- day public review period that will end on Aug. 31, 2020. The purpose of this pilot project is to beneficially use dredged material from Waukegan Harbor to provide ecosystem restoration, shoreline protection, and recreation benefits in four Illinois coastal communities. This report documents the feasibility of the proposed activity and how it achieves the stated goals for the pilot program as outlined in the implementation guidance for Section 1122 of the Water Resources Development Act of 2016. 

The report builds upon the updated Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) that the Chicago District completed for Waukegan Harbor maintenance dredging and placement in 2019. This 2019 EA and FONSI analyzed the affected environment of the placement locations and the environmental impacts of all of the measures that are being included in the current feasibility report. As such, the Chicago District is specifically seeking public input related to the plan development, evaluation, comparison, and recommendation presented in the feasibility report. 

Comments may be submitted by email to CELRC_Planning_Econ@usace.army.mil or mailed to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District ATTN: Planning Branch 231 S. LaSalle St. (Suite 1500) Chicago, IL 60604.

The draft feasibility report, as well as the 2019 EA and FONSI, can be found at: https://www.lrc.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works-Projects/Waukegan-Harbor-Dredging/


What is the challenge?

Have you been to our lakefront recently? If so, you have seen first-hand how our shoreline has changed. In many communities, our beaches are disappearing. In other communities, our harbors are collecting more sediment or beaches are emerging where they never existed before. To some extent, this is natural. Illinois’ shoreline is dynamic. Storms, ice, and fluctuating lake levels combine to create an ever-changing coastal system. But, as our climate changes, shoreline change is happening more rapidly. For many of us, this has come at a high cost. We are losing important public access to the lakefront and coastal habitats as well as spending significant financial resources annually on sand replenishment. In short, we are losing the places where we love to live, work, and play.

What can we do?

So, what can we do about this? We are so glad you asked! Oftentimes, when we take steps to protect our shoreline alone, that can have unintended consequences for our neighbors. Because our shoreline is continually changing, the solutions require us to work together. And, we have done just that. Under the leadership of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management Program, we participate in the Illinois Sand Management Working Group, a network of elected officials and managers from local, state, and federal organizations. We collaborate on regionally-impactful and tangible approaches to public shoreline management.

What does regional collaboration look like?

We are excited to share some BIG news. The communities of Glencoe, Evanston, Lake Bluff, and North Chicago put forth a project proposal to a very competitive US Army Corps of Engineers assistance program, and we got it! There is a US law – the Water Resources Development Act – that enables the US Army Corps of Engineers to provide support for 10 shoreline protection pilot projects around the country. We were 1 of 95 proposals submitted, and our project was the only one selected in the Great Lakes region. Wow!

Our project – Public Beach Protection Pilot in Four Illinois Coastal Communities – leverages our existing collaboration through the Illinois Sand Management Working Group to help us protect about 55,000 yards along our coast from shoreline loss. That’s the length of 458 football fields (yes, that much!). But, wait – here’s the best part. Much of this work is federally-funded. The US Army Corps of Engineers will give our communities about $1 million in project work and technical expertise for a very low price tag for us (about $25,000 for each community involved).

As is true of all successes, we would not be here without the hard work of many people. We are deeply grateful for the support of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Coastal Management Program, our fellow collaborators in the Illinois Sand Management Working Group, and our federal, state, and local elected leaders. In particular, we would like to thank the leaders who developed letters of support for this project: US Senator Dick Durbin, US Senator Tammy Duckworth, US Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, US Congressman Brad Schneider, former Illinois State Senator Daniel Biss, Illinois State Senator Julie Morrison, Illinois Representative Robyn Gabel, Illinois Representative Rita Mayfield, and Mayor Leon Rockingham.

What’s Next

We will be meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers to better understand the process related to Section 1122.  We will keep the community updated on the process but any work on this project will take place at the earliest in the spring of 2020.