Springfield — A plan that will guide DNR’s recently formed Illinois Coastal Management Program is nearing its final draft stages. At this point, the program’s ultimate goals only indirectly touch on issues concerning anglers and fisheries.
But planning is still in the early stages.
“The top priority in the coastal zone was to restore and improve riparian areas, lakes and streams as habitat for birds and wildlife, which would include fish, and expanding protection and restoration of nearshore aquatic habitat,” Diane Tecic, program manager of the ICMP, said.
Tecic noted an upcoming meeting planned between her program and DNR’s Division of Fisheries’ Lake Michigan Program, which is led by Vic Santucci, could change the role Fisheries and anglers play.
“There’s opportunities for us to work together for the benefit of fisheries as well as the fishing community,” Santucci said, adding that his hopes that the program not only help improve habitat but also, perhaps, lead to increased recreational access on Lake Michigan.
“It’s pretty much brainstorming at this point, but if you have a park or an ecological restoration, maybe there’s a way for us to tie anglers into that,” Santucci said.
The program was formed in January 2012, after receiving federal approval from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
DNR held three public meetings in late October, seeking feedback from the public on the plan, which centers around ecology on the state’s 63 miles of Lake Michigan coast.
While much attention is paid to the Asian carp danger on the big lake, the state must work to promote it.
“Lake Michigan is one of the most important natural resources, not just in Illinois, but in the United States,” DNR Director Marc Miller said. “The priorities we establish for our piece of this amazing and iconic ecosystem will ensure that future generations can enjoy it and rely on it for decades to come.”
The 20-page document will undergo one more revision once public comment has been compiled before being finalized, said Tecic.
Tecic said the feedback received has focused primarily on restoring and improving natural coastal habitat.
The program is tasked with focusing on a number of topics concerning the natural and cultural resources along the Lake Michigan coast. Those areas include invasive species, development and pollution, among others.
So the plan is intended to guide the program for the next three to five years while helping determine and rank priorities for Illinois’ Coastal Grants program.
Titled “Illinois Lake Michigan Implementation Plan,” it’s more of a big picture look at the state’s Lake Michigan coastal zone, which has been broken into three focus areas: Chicago and Evanston’s Lakefront and Waterways, Lake County’s Coast and the North Shore, and South Chicago and the Calumet.
Tecic admitted the newly formed program, which has built its ranks up to almost eight employees with hopes to add two more to the team, has been cautious as to not duplicate efforts already being carried out by existing DNR divisions, Tecic said.
A big impetus for the program, though, is to fill in gaps that aren’t currently being met, which could include partnering and collaborating with not just other DNR divisions, but other government entities.
“We have a variety of habitats for us to deal with, a varied coast,” Tecic said. “A number of partners have been working on these issues for years.
“Part of our plan is to work with all of those groups to find out where we can actually make a difference in non-point source pollution.”
Tecic said the program has already identified monitoring as an area where there are some gaps.
“It talking to stakeholders already, there has been a general lack of monitoring in some areas,” she said. “Knowing what is going into the lake is the first step in dealing with our problems. That may be a role we play, helping monitoring.”
Another area, which Tecic said was reinforced through public comment, is a call for using green infrastructure, such as rain gardens, to organically deal with stormwater events, helping to ease pressure on the city’s sewer system by routing water to naturally filter through soil.