Prairie Research Institute

Coastal Management

The Prairie Research Institute supports the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Management Program (CMP) with scientific and technical expertise relating to water resource, habitat, economic development, and engagement aspects of CMP activities.

Staff from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) lead the Coastal Clean Waters effort to reduce polluted runoff to coastal waters. The program establishes a set of management measures for states to use in controlling runoff from five main sources: agriculture, forestry, urban areas, marinas, and hydromodification (shoreline and stream channel modification). The program also includes management measures for wetlands, riparian, and vegetated treatment systems. Working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office, ISTC staff coordinate Illinois’ participation in developing the Lakewide Action and Management Plan, an action plan for restoring and protecting the Lake Michigan ecosystem. ISTC also assists the Illinois International Port District. ISTC is coordinating with the Illinois State Water Survey to help address critical water quality and groundwater questions facing the coastal region.

The Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) provides technical expertise to the CMP. The coastal area faces unique water quality issues due to urban concentration. The survey is assisting the program in identifying strategies to understand water quality data, information and trends. This will help local watershed planners identify specific strategies to effectively protect, conserve, restore, and improve local waters. The survey also provides support in understanding groundwater contamination concerns, the boundaries from which groundwater influences surface water, and how it affects Lake Michigan levels and flows.

The Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) collaborates with and provides technical support to the CMP on a number of ongoing projects. The ISGS Great Lakes Coastal Geology Research Group collects a wide range of high-resolution coastal geological data that support science-based management decisions made by CMP. Data products such as shoreline erosion and habitat vulnerability models will help inform shoreline protection decisions at Illinois Beach State Park. This expansive coastal state park is home to some of the last remaining natural shorelines in Illinois and a number of threatened and endangered plant and animal species as well as rare coastal wetland habitats. In addition to providing insight into the processes behind coastal erosion, ISGS scientists are also providing expertise towards the understanding, and ultimately preservation, of these rare and vulnerable wetland habitats by contributing to carbon budget and hydrologic models at a number of wetland sites at Illinois Beach State Park.

The Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) is routinely involved in contracted fieldwork that supports ongoing monitoring in the Waukegan Harbor area of concern (AOC). The AOC was designated due to extensive polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination that damaged aquatic and terrestrial habitats and species. The PCBs have been removed from the harbor and surrounding areas but many adverse effects persist throughout the food chain today. CMP is the lead agency in the ongoing monitoring of this legacy contamination and works closely with INHS scientists to collect and interpret environmental field data. INHS, CMP, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), and other organizations then work together to make management decisions about the future of the Waukegan Harbor AOC.

The Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) is collaborating with the CMP to identify shared priorities for managing shoreline and offshore cultural resources within Illinois. The shorelines and offshore settings of Lake Michigan are home to many historically significant resources and places, like maritime industries and infrastructure, historic properties, shipwrecks, and submerged landscapes. These Ancestral, historical, and archaeological sites, places, and properties help to define the culture of our state. Many are potentially at risk due to shoreline erosion and future development. Stakeholders of professional resource managers, community-focused organizations, educational institutions, and descendant communities are being brought together by ISAS and the CMP to collectively set a path forward for the management, educational opportunities, and development of Illinois’ cultural heritage in Lake Michigan.

Visit the Illinois Coastal Management Program website for full details.