Section of Grand Calumet River Now Restored

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October 27, 2015

Story and Photo by:  Sharon Jackson, Lakeshore Public Radio Reporter


HAMMOND — The 24 mile long Grand Calumet River was once called the most polluted river in America, but through a Great Lakes Legacy Act partnership, the section of the river from Kennedy Avenue to Cline is now cleaned up.

Diana Mally, Project Manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, says a lot of work was done to get the nature area restored.

About 1.1 million cubic yards were removed or capped and more than 315 acres of river, riverine marsh and adjacent habitat has been restored.

Chris Korleski, is the Director of the Great Lakes National Program Office which oversees the implementation of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Grant. He says many thought the Grand Cal restoration initiative would never have come as far as this completion of this area of restoration.

Several funding sources went into the 80 million dollar project including the GLRI grant and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Chi-Cal Rivers Fund grant.

Paul Labus, with The Nature Conservancy says the organization purchased the property along the Grand Calumet in 2004 with money from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

With the completion of this phase of the restoration project, it is estimated that 40 percent of the river, which is a tributary to Lake Michigan, is re-mediated.

Mally says the cleaning of the natural area involved developing and implementing a strategy in order to keep the toxic substances contained in the most cost-effective way possible.

She says the restoration team cleared a 40-acre marsh area of invasive Phragmites. The area was then replanted with native seeds of plants including over 170,000 wetland plants…and about 178 acres of adjacent, globally rare dune and swale habitat has been restored.

State Representative Donna Harris, from East Chicago, who is serving out the remainder of her late husband, State Representative Earl Harris’ term, says the restoration completed on the Grand Calumet brings her husband’s vision to reality.

Indiana Department of Environmental Management Regional Office Director Hala Kuss says the restoration work will have a lasting positive impact for all involved. By removing contaminated sediments and reducing the spread of invasive species, beneficial uses of the waterway will begin to return.  Kuss says the work that’s been done is the ultimate key to the removal of the Grand Calumet River from the federal list of areas of concern.

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