Back more than two decades ago, when our now-President/CEO Brook McDonald was just a volunteer, The Conservation Foundation worked with him and other volunteers to clean up the trash in the DuPage River. Over the years that grew into a watershed planning effort to improve and protect the health of the DuPage River watershed.
Along the way we have always had a great partnership with the wastewater treatment plant operators – without their good work we would be standing in a whole lot of, well, you-know-what. In 2004 – 2005 there was a lot of discussion of Total Maximum Daily Loads (the total amount of pollutants that a particular waterway can carry and still meet U.S. Clean Water Act standards) for things like dissolved oxygen and ammonia, regulations that would have required tens of millions of dollars to upgrade treatment plants without any promise that these investments would improve aquatic life in our streams.
So several of the operators, long-time friends of ours like Larry Cox, Dennis Streicher and Bob Clavel, came to The Conservation Foundation to talk about forming a new group that would focus on collecting meaningful data to make informed decisions on how best to spend resources that would make real improvements in the streams. This new group, the DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup, built on the strengths of all of our organizations, bringing together the regulated community and the environmental community to work towards a common goal.
Not everyone was so optimistic – an attorney from another unnamed organization flat out told us he would see us in court when we failed. Instead we have charged ahead leading the way with one of the most rigorous monitoring programs in the state, an excellent winter chlorides (deicing) training and chloride reduction program, several successful restoration projects under our belt and the first-ever discharge permit that allows and gives credit for doing physical stream restoration in return for delaying implementation of some new permit limits. This program alone will put more than $15 million dollars of local funds directly towards improving the DuPage River & Salt Creek.
The Conservation Foundation supplies staff members Stephen McCracken and Tara Neff to the DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup, and several of us other staff members are involved as well. I have had the honor of working with this very dedicated and passionate group of people both as staff and now as a board member chairing the Monitoring Committee. These first ten years have been an incredible ride and the next 10 will bring miles of newly restored and many more miles of reconnected streams within the DuPage River & Salt Creek watersheds.
Ecological Restoration and Water Quality Specialist