Progress update provided on watershed project

By Jim McCabe on January 22 at 6:34am

Jeff Boeckler of Northwater Consulting provides an update to aldermen last week.

Nearly three-fifths of the projects prescribed to prevent sedimentation buildup in a major Jacksonville waterway have been implemented.

That’s what Jacksonville aldermen were told in the latest update on the Lake Mauvaisterre Watershed project during a City Council meeting last Monday.

Officials with American Farmland Trust began talking with Jacksonville aldermen in late 2013 about possibly signing on with the outreach program, which is designed to reduce sediments and nutrient runoff in the waterways of the watershed, which include 21,000 acres in Morgan County.

A total of 55 practices have been recommended for landowners. Jacksonville Alderman Mike Wankel says project officials have been busy over the last several months implementing many of them.

“Some of it is tiling, some of it is riff-raff, large rocks, to prevent erosion of the land and keep it in place instead of having it move downstream. That’s mostly what they would see on a typical landowner’s project as of right now,” says Wankel.

“The surprising thing that he found was some of the depths of the creek that would allow carrying a large amount of volume towards Lake Mauvaisterre. However, there’s not much that can be done on some of those particular parts of the creek bed,” he continues.

The city dredged nearly 550,000 cubic yards of silt from Lake Mauvaisterre in 2014, with the goal of increasing the lake’s capacity by 111-million gallons.

The remaining practices that have been requested will be taken care of in the next two years, according to Wankel. However, he says a sediment dam needs to go up on the east side of the lake, where the most water and topsoil are entering.

Project officials have told Wankel that’s the best way to prevent runoff in the future.

“If we don’t put up some kind of construction as far as a sediment dam there that we can maintain, once it’s put in, then, simply, the lake is just going to silt back in with soil and sediment like it has in the past. So, we want to prevent any of that, or the biggest portion that we can, if at all possible,” Wankel explains.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency provides 60 percent of the funding for the current project through a grant. The City of Jacksonville shares the remaining 40 percent cost with landowners who are participating, through the administration of Northwater Consulting Group.

As far as a sediment dam or any other major project after that, Wankel says it depends on what direction City Council wants to take.