SYCAMORE – DeKalb County officials and landowners could implement a slew of changes and projects to improve water quality and reduce flooding, initial findings from a watershed planning study suggest.
The DeKalb County Stormwater Management Committee, which has been working with the DeKalb County Community Foundation since 2009 to address flooding and water quality issues in the county, released the initial findings from an 18-month watershed study Thursday night.
A watershed is an area of land where all the water that runs off the surface or flows underground goes to the same place. Watersheds don’t follow geographic or political boundaries, prompting DeKalb County and Kane County officials to collaborate on improvement efforts.
The stormwater management steering committee is currently studying the east branch of the Kishwaukee River’s south branch, a 123-square-mile watershed that stretches from Sycamore and Cortland into Kane County, Campton Hills and Lily Lake and from Burlington to Maple Park. The watershed also includes a small piece of DeKalb.
Deanna Doohaluk, a water resource planner with Chicago based consultants Hey and Associates, said water quality samples taken in the watershed showed elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, which she said are common in predominately agricultural areas. She also said there could be future concerns about decreased oxygen in area waterways.
“Things are good, but we’re getting some inputs that we might need to control because as those things get higher, oxygen levels in creeks start to decrease, you can get algae blooms and fish kills and things like that,” Doohaluk said.
Improvements could be made by adding things such as stormwater detention basins in the floodplain, planting vegetated strips near streams and removing structures from the flood plain, Doohaluk said. She noted the Sycamore Park District’s golf course and Evergreen Village Mobile Home Park as areas in this watershed known for flooding.
In these areas, she recommended creating rain gardens, which can absorb water before it runs into storm sewers, or adding recreational wetlands.
Doohaluk suggested DeKalb County update its ordinances related to stormwater quality and wetlands, while Kane County update its water quality ordinance.
The underlying factor in the push for the changes would be to prepare the area for an eventual increase in development and reduction in agricultural land.
“The goal is to create a plan that isn’t just a plan for us to pat ourselves on the back, but that guides what we do managing our water quantity and quality in the future,” DeKalb County Planning and Zoning Administrator Paul Miller said.
It’s a large undertaking, said Roger Steimel, a farmer from south of Cortland who has been involved in the planning process.
“We realize we’ve got a lot to do,” Steimel said. “But we’re headed in the right direction.”
After the watershed study is completed in June, members of the DeKalb County Stormwater Management Committee will finalize the stormwater management plan and recommend changes to officials. Committee members will continue to investigated grant opportunities to implement some of the changes.