Ill. agencies win FHWA enviro award

North Chicago wetland restoration project named 2010 Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative

News Illinois Tollway December 22, 2010
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Environmental work in Lake County by the Illinois Tollway and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has been recognized by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as one of seven nationwide projects selected in 2010 as Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives.

The North Chicago Wetland Mitigation Project is rehabilitating and protecting 150 acres of Illinois native landscape threatened by invasive species and development. The site, located just south of Buckley Road and east of the Tri-State Tollway (I-94), contains high-quality wetlands. With less than 0.1% of Illinois native prairie remaining, the importance of repairing and protecting this site from degradation or development is critical.

According to FHWA, projects selected as Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives identify ecosystem and habitat projects that are unique or highly unusual in their geographic scope, use cutting-edge science or technology, use high-level environmental standards, achieve high-quality results and are recognized by environmental interests as being particularly valuable or noteworthy.

"The Tollway is committed to fostering environmental responsibility and sustainability in everything we do," said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. "The native plants and high-quality wetlands on this site are extremely important to this state, and we are pleased to be able to help restore and protect them."

"In keeping with Gov. Pat Quinn's directive to embrace green initiatives in our construction practices, the Illinois Department of Transportation is committed to preserving the environment as the work continues on the governor's historic Illinois Jobs Now! capital program," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig. "We are pleased to be recognized for our work with the Illinois Tollway to protect this valuable piece of our state's ecosystem."

Work to remove invasive vegetation and existing agriculture drainage tiles from the site began earlier this year and was followed by the seeding of degraded wetlands and upland areas with sedges, grasses, prairie plants and other native species in late fall. By restoring hydrology to the site's wetlands and removing invasive plants, high-quality vegetation will be allowed to flourish and native prairie will be restored. The Tollway will manage and monitor the site until 2015.

The restoration of this site's natural resources was developed to offset wetlands that were impacted during the Tollway's recent Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294) Rebuild & Widen Project, as well as the Illinois Department of Transportation's recent work on Ill. Rte. 47.

This project was coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, IDOT, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the University of Illinois, the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission, the Forest Preserve District of Lake County and the City of North Chicago.

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