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Design of Mitigation Plan Begins for Little Calumet River Flood Control and Recreation Project
Midwest Region, September 27, 2006
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Biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chicago District Army Corps of Engineers, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and a local botanist/activist, met, September 26-29, to evaluate the existing condition of 355 acres of land purchased by the State of Indiana. 

That land was to serve as part of the mitigation for wetland losses due to the Chicago District's Little Calumet River Flood Control and Recreation Project, under construction along 11 miles of the river in Lake County, Indiana.  

Congress authorized the project 20 years ago, to include wetland mitigation. Levee construction began in 1990 and remains ongoing.  While acres of wetlands were filled for the levees, mitigation proposals remained at a standstill until about 2 years ago, when 89 acres in the project area in Gary, Indiana, began to be restored to native wet prairie/sedge meadow. 

Other lands between the levees were deemed unsuitable for restoration because of flooding frequency, which would drown the plantings.  The majority of the required mitigation was moved to Hobart Marsh, a relatively intact ecosystem along a tributary of the Little Calumet. 

This ecosystem includes about 700 acres of  oak savanna, fens, wet prairie, and other native habitats owned by federal (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore), state (Indiana Division of Nature Preserves), and local governments and  land trusts, making for an ecosytem of over 1,000 acres which will be protected within a large metropolitan area. 

The September field review was held to record the existing conditions of the 355 acres and develop strategies for the restoration.  Huge bur, red, and white oaks are found in the old savannas, most of which have seen their understories severaly degraded through years of cattle grazing. 

Other areas are cropland and will remain so until prairie and savanna plantings begin at intervals through the next several years.  Degraded wetlands are also present and will require enhancement. 

Control of invasive vegetation will be a major component of the restoration but, since 200 years old trees are found there, there won't be a long wait to see what a native moist bur oak savanna may have looked like in northwestern Indiana. 

Lack of information on the species composition of the savanna groundcover is a problem, as is a seed source for many savanna species. It's hoped that the Hobart Prairie Grove Unit of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and McCloskey Bur Oak Savanna State Nature Preserve can guide the restoration efforts.

Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov
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