Nippersink Creek restoration project moves one step closer

Nippersink Creek, like most streams, used to go back and forth and meander around.

The McHenry County Conservation District hopes to restore another 3.5 miles of the creek to how it looked before a 1984 project that straightened it to make it better for agriculture, said Ed Collins, the district’s director of land preservation and natural resources.

The straightened portion was returned to its meandering course in 1999, the hills were rebuilt, and the ditch was abandoned, he said. Two more sections were restored in 2000 and 2001.

But despite not being straightened, areas downstream also were affected.

The goal of straightening a stream is to get the water as quickly through the area as possible, which means the water cut deeper and stream banks had fallen in, Collins said.

The plan calls for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to install five rocky rapid areas called riffles in the stream, bring the creek back to its original grade and restore the banks to a more gentle slope along a 3.5-mile section of Nippersink Creek that runs from about the center of Glacial Park, where the dechannelization project ended, almost to North Solon.

The oak woodlands and savanna in Glacial Park will remain, but the non-native species will be removed and the area will be replanted with natural wetlands plants.

The changes will mean better water quality, a better wildlife and fish habitat and improvements for those fishing and kayak and canoe users because gentler slopes make it easier for everyone to get down to the stream, and water levels will be more stable, Collins said.

With Glacial Park returned to a floodplain, residents downstream also could see less flooding, he said.

The conservation district still is a step away from implementing the plan.

Restoration work has been stop-and-go as funding for the various stages became available or disappeared despite being awarded a grant.

“It’s been a long hike,” Collins said.

The district’s board of trustees approved an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do the project, and it is just waiting for the funding to come through.

If it does, work would begin sometime next fall, Collins said.

The conservation district is paying for its portion of the grant with previous land acquisitions, and the Army Corp is providing technical expertise and the $4 million needed to do the work.

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