Rain, flooding and the resulting erosion caused Kickapoo Creek to redirect itself and impact the land and wildlife around it, but partnerships between the Illinois Army National Guard, state departments and EPA got the creek back on track for this spring.
The Marseilles Training Area's engineers provided heavy equipment and crews to excavate, haul material and grade along the creek bed. The EPA and Illinois Department of Military Affairs provided funding, as did ComEd, the local utility company. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources also contributed equipment and crews. The Illinois State Water Survey designed and supervised the installation.
The EPA and Illinois DNR wanted to preserve the watershed and control the erosion that could impact the water quality of the Illinois River and the aquatic habitat. The bank beneath ComEd's electrical tower was in danger of collapse and needed reinforced.
In addition to reclaiming training lands and eliminating safety concerns, the Illinois National Guard looked at this as an opportunity to improve natural resource conservation and provide unique training opportunities for ARNG Soldiers. The project directly addressed two goals in the installation's Integrated Natural Resource Management Plan: soil stabilization and erosion control. An additional benefit was improved community relations.
With this joint-use facility, in which a military and a conservation organization use an agreed-upon section of land, "everybody looked to the other person to pay the bill," said John Casebeer, chief of the Environmental Branch for the Illinois Department of Military Affairs. "We've had some unsuccessful lone initiatives," Casebeer said. "Until we could actually work with the Illinois DNR and bring in the Illinois water survey and the Illinois EPA, that's when everybody started working better together."
The Illinois Army National Guard stockpiled concrete debris from other construction and demolition activities and reused it for this project. A local company that builds bridge beams also donated excess concrete material. Transportation units from the Guard used their assets to transport rock and construction material, completing training requirements while supporting the creek reclamation project.
National Guard units that train at the Marseilles Training Center developed annual training projects and adapted their training to support the creek reclamation project. They constructed vehicle turn-arounds; corrected, repaired and minimized erosion; ensured proper drainage to prevent future erosion; and moved concrete beams with aviation assets.
The creek's natural bank height of eight feet had grown to 30 feet and the width of the creek expanded from 40 feet to 100 feet. The creek's natural high velocity increased soil and sediment washing downstream, clogging outflow culverts and impacting stream quality and the water quality of the Illinois River.
Because of the creek's re-direction, a 50-foot clear water lake in a local quarry was filled in by sediment and was less than 20 feet deep. Though the lake is no longer clear enough to support fish, the hope is that a reduced sediment load will clear up the lake in time.
The agreed-upon solution was to construct a series of grade control structures called weirs that mimic natural riffles and small pools to slow the water and minimize the slope. Additional benefits provided by the structures include increased habitat, increased aquatic food supply that support fish and birds, and water aeration. To construct the structures 17,000 tons of rock were required including material from the ILARNG's recycled concrete stockpile. Embankments were armored and reinforced to save training land from the creek's flow.
The environmental office is fully integrated with the facilities, engineering, range and training staff at the Marseilles Training Area. This ensures natural resource conservations projects are integrated into the broader installation plans and helps ensure needed support is available. The Kickapoo Creek restoration project is a good example of creating win-win opportunities while balancing training and environmental requirements.
All their successes combined to help the installation win the Secretary of the Army's
FY 2011 award for natural resources conservation in the small installation category. The Illinois Army National Guard's Marseilles Training Area will go on to compete in the Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards Program. Winners of that competition receive their awards in a pentagon ceremony in June.