Endowment: Great Effort To Improve a Great Lake

Little Calumet Conservation Area

The southern shores of Lake Michigan — dotted with steel mills and oil refineries — are home to a diverse array of animal and plant species. Lake Michigan is also a critical source of drinking water for communities surrounding the lake. With support from the Izaak Walton League of America Endowment, the League’s Porter County Chapter is working to ensure that the water flowing into Lake Michigan from northwest Indiana is clean enough to support healthy natural resources. 

Little River, Big Problems

More than 47,000 acres of land in northwest Indiana, home to the Porter County Chapter and several other League chapters, drain into the East Branch of the Little Calumet River. For more than a decade, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management reported significant water quality impairments in the East Branch — including E. coli and excess nitrogen and phosphorus — that contributed to water quality problems in Lake Michigan.

To help protect and clean up the East Branch, the Porter County Chapter developed a plan to purchase and restore land along the river and its tributaries. The chapter purchased 60 acres and placed conservation easements on these lands, which are named after the chapter member who sold the chapter the first parcel of land and helped them acquire the second parcel.

Chapter members then focused on restoration, which included planting 1,000 trees to help capture and filter runoff. The current phase of the project is monitoring water quality to gauge the effectiveness of restoration efforts and pinpoint where additional work may be needed. The goal is to restore prairie, wetlands, and riverine trees along the creek line. This will help determine if restoration will decrease the water temperature and better control sand and silt accumulation to create conditions that support spawning of salmon and native brook trout (thereby increasing the fish populations in Lake Michigan). This is part of a coordinated effort in conjunction with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and the Shirley Heinze Land Trust to protect and restore 2,000 acres of prairie, woods, and wetlands.

Monitoring Progress

River Porter County ChapterWith a grant from the IWLA Endowment, the Porter County Chapter purchased temperature sensors, chemical monitoring equipment, and supplies to conduct biological monitoring in Reynolds Creek and the East Branch of the Little Calumet River. Water testing will establish baseline levels for pollutants and document future levels and be used to help educate local drainage boards about alternative management practices.

The chapter is also working on a public access plan for increasing recreational and educational use of the property. Groups that use the area include the local 4-H Trackers Club, which placed a bee hive on the property; local Scouts troops; and the Moraine Ridge Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. The Izaak Walton League of America Endowment is proud to have supported this chapter-led effort to help make Lake Michigan a “great” lake again.

For more information on Endowment grants, including grant application forms, visit http://iwla-endowment.org. Applications can be submitted electronically.

The Izaak Walton League of America Endowment is an independent fund managed by the IWLA Endowment Board of Directors. All members of the Izaak Walton League are also members of the IWLA Endowment and eligible to vote during Board of Directors elections. With over a two million dollar endowment contributed by members like you, the Endowment makes grants for activities and programs conducted by League chapters, divisions, and the national office.

Craig Rogers, IWLA Endowment Board member