BARTLETT – The West Branch Forest Preserve and DuPage County soon will execute plans to restore the West Branch DuPage River, which has experienced flooding, habitat loss, reduced floodwater protection and invasive species in recent years.
The West Branch Klein Fen, River Restoration and Wetland Mitigation Project will improve a one-mile stretch of the West Branch DuPage River in Bartlett. The project was conceived in 2005 but spent years in the design and permit process before recently receiving the necessary permit from the DuPage County Board. Work on the project will begin this month and is estimated to be completed by May 2014.
The West Branch Forest Preserve and the DuPage County Stormwater Management are working together to restore 350 acres of river preserve by constructing a raised channel bed, installing 21 riffles and pools, constructing about 110 acres of new wetlands, improving the river’s environment for plants and animals and rehydrating the area.
The project will cost $8.1 million and is being funded by a $799,000 Illinois Environment Protection Agency grant, Forest Preserve District development bonds and money from the City of Chicago O’Hare Modernization Program. The project received city funding to offset the loss of habitats similar to that of the west branch as a result of O’Hare International Airport’s runway expansion.
The county will cultivate and improve the preserve’s vegetation, water quality and habitat. The forest preserve will reintroduce gravel and cobblestones to the river.
John Oldenburg, director of natural resources for the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, said the best way to understand how the river will change is to imagine it as a “giant sponge.”
“Everyone wants the water off their property,” Oldenburg said. “This is an opportunity to restore the wetlands and river by putting this water back.”
The project will rehydrate dry areas of the land and prevent stormwater from spilling into surrounding areas. Project efforts also will include installing large pumps and pipes to prevent the river from overflowing. Invasive plants and dying trees will be removed to make room for healthy and natural vegetation. These actions will restore the flow of the water and its natural habitat, increasing the water quality.
The project will make the forest preserve and river a destination for fishing, canoeing, bird watching and more, said Oldenburg.
“This is for anyone who takes advantage of the forest preserve,” said County Director of Stormwater Management Anthony Charlton. “Even the people all the way down into Naperville will experience water improvements.”