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Service biologist Will Tucker from the Indiana Field Office talks to middle and high school students about the restored Grand Calumet River in northwestern Indiana. Photo by Dan Sparks/USFWS

Service biologist Will Tucker from the Indiana Field Office talks to middle and high school students about the restored Grand Calumet River in northwestern Indiana. Photo by Dan Sparks/USFWS.

Celebrating the return of the Grand Cal in Indiana

May 18, 2017 marked the fourth annual Grand Calumet River Stewardship Day, and biologists from the Indiana Ecological Services Field Office teamed with other partners to help showcase the river’s successful rebound. Approximately 70 enthusiastic middle and high school students from East Chicago and Gary, Indiana, came out to explore nature on the banks of the restored Grand Calumet River. These young students and their teachers were able to interact with fish and wildlife biologists to see first-hand how life is returning to this once degraded landscape. Activities include fish identification, macroinvertebrate sampling, bird watching and tree planting alongside scientists and experts familiar with the site.

Staff from the Indiana Division of Nature Preserves helped the students plant trees. Service biologists Will Tucker and Dan Sparks shared information on what the fish community of the Grand Calumet River looked like before and after the remedial/restoration efforts took place. They described pollution tolerant and pollution intolerant communities, and were able to show what healthy and deformed fish looked like using preserved fish collected by Sparks and his colleagues from 1992 to 2015.

The Grand Calumet was once called the most polluted river in America. Through a partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Indiana and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service using Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Great Lakes Legacy Act funding, almost 2 million cubic yards of river and wetland sediment have been removed or capped and 84 acres of habitat have been restored. Currently, this partnership is contemplating additional sediment cleanup in Hammond, East Chicago and Gary, Indiana. Monitoring the success of these restoration efforts will continue as we try to encourage remedial / restoration efforts in the Grand Calumet River Area of Concern.

The stewardship day was hosted by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, The Nature Conservancy, Shirley Heinze Land Trust, National Audubon Society, East Chicago Waterway Management District and several local organizations.

By Dan Sparks
Indiana Ecological Services Field Office

Last updated: June 6, 2017