Upper Des Plaines River Ecosystem Partnership History  
The Wisconsin-Illinois Upper Des Plaines River Ecosystem Partnership was organized in 1996 under the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Ecosystems Program of Conservation 2000, a multi-year initiative to preserve and restore Illinois ecosystems. The partnership promotes collaboration among the diverse organizations and private landowners who share an interest in achieving multiple objectives in improving conditions within the watershed.
The goals of the partnership are:
• to improve water quality and reduce soil erosion;
• to protect and restore wildlife habitat and open space;
• to manage stormwater and the floodplain;
• to enhance recreational opportunities; and
• to demonstrate the feasibility of interstate and
   public/private partnerships. 
The Partnership is composed of a diverse group of non-profit organizations, businesses, landowners, planning agencies, and government representatives.
Collaboration and Public Involvement
The ecosystem partnership has initiated and participated in a number of collaborative activities to involve the public and address watershed impacts. The partnership project coordinator has worked with groups in the watershed to identify stakeholders and their concerns.

In June of 1998, the partnership organized and identified funding for the Des Plaines River Conference held at Dominican University in River Forest, which was attended by over 200 people. This conference led to the creation of the Des Plaines River Alliance, a confederation of groups that represents the entire Des Plaines River Watershed. The partnership also participates in the annual Des Plaines River Canoe Expedition and works with the Des Plaines River Watershed Team, a group focused on flooding concerns in Cook County.

As part of the Upper Des Plaines Phase 2 advisory committee, the partnership is helping to determine the feasibility of improvements in flood damage reduction, environmental restoration, and water quality. The Kenosha–Racine Land Trust, a partner organization, is leading the effort to preserve and manage hundreds of acres of wetlands adjacent to the Des Plaines River in Kenosha County. In the fall of 1999, the partnership offered a watershed science workshop led by Dr. Edwin Herricks of the University of Illinois. Another course is being planned that will build on this experience and provide an opportunity for residents of the Upper Des Plaines River Watershed to gain a deeper understanding of stream biology.
Watershed Restoration Action Strategy for the Upper Des Plaines River
Particpants in the Upper Des Plaines River Ecosystem Partnership
Applied Ecological Services
Cook County Forest Preserve District
Des Plaines River Alliance
Des Plaines Watershed Team
Eyring and Associates
Home Builders Association of Lake County
Integrated Lakes Management
Kenosha–Racine Land Trust
Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District
Lake County Forest Preserve District
Lake County Stormwater Management Commission
Liberty Prairie Conservancy
Liberty Prairie Foundation
Loch Lomond Property Owners Association
North Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District
Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission
Openlands Project
Rivershire Property Owners Association
Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Photos from past activities of UPDREP
Demar Harris (left) and Buddy Hargett of the Workforce Development Department take questions from the audience at UDPREP's Brown Bag Briefing.
Speakers representing four major environmental grant programs in Illinois (above) spoke at one of UDPREP's special events on fundraising.
Participants of UDPREP's "Bringing Back the Fish!" event (above) learn how scientists monitor fish and insects as part of the Des Plaines River Fish Sanctuary Project.
Why is watershed planning necessary?
Watershed plans provide direction and target resources for better management and restoration of the watershed. The plan serves as a blueprint for improving water quality, reducing flood damage, and protecting natural resources in a watershed -- and for preventing existing watershed problems from worsening in the future as a result of imprudent land development. Additionally, watershed planning offers an opportunity for multiple jurisdictions with varying priorities to coordinate their efforts and accept their responsibility for the impact their actions have both up and downstream.
What is the benefit of a watershed plan?
The data compiled for a watershed plan provides municipalities, forest preserves, developers, and others with information to plan according to the lay of the land. Updated information can provide guidance for activities such as zoning, transportation considerations, land acquisition and open space preservation and restoration. Countywide watershed development standards can also be tailored to fit each watershed. The Lake Michigan watershed, for example, has an intricate system of bluffs and ravines while the North Branch of the Chicago River watershed is flat and linear. What may be proper development in the Lake Michigan watershed may not be appropriate for the North Branch because stormwater drains differently or components of the natural drainage systems differ.
Who should participate in the planning process?
Watershed stakeholders participate in watershed planning. A stakeholder is anyone that has an interest or ‘stake' in the watershed. Stakeholders may include municipalities, townships, drainage districts, homeowner associations, developers, county agencies, lakes management groups, landowners and local, state and federal agencies. The watershed planning process can't happen and won't be successful without the input, interest and commitment of stakeholders. Ultimately, to successfully protect or restore a watershed, residents and communities of the watershed have to work together - sharing the costs and reaping the benefits of watershed improvements.
What is included in a watershed management plan?
Goals & Objectives: Key watershed issues and opportunities are identified by the project partners and other stakeholders during the planning process and are used to develop the goals and objectives for the watershed plan. Some of the common problems and opportunities in Lake County's watersheds, for example, include degraded water quality, flooding, erosion, need for better natural resource protection, lack of stream access, poor inter-jurisdictional communication and coordination, and lack of watershed awareness and stewardship.
Watershed Assessment
An important product of a watershed plan is the watershed resource assessment. In many cases, two strategies are used to assess the current watershed condition. The first strategy is to identify and compile relevant information at the watershed level from existing studies, reports, maps and data on topics including water quality, current and projected land use, flood problem areas and natural resources. This information is collected from a variety of sources resulting in a summary report. Maps are also produced for analysis purposes and for project reporting. The second strategy is to physically survey the watershed to collect information that doesn't already exist.
Potential Solutions Toolbox
The ‘toolbox' describes the potential practices (known as best management practices or BMPs) that can be used to improve conditions in the watershed. The BMPs presented reflect a means to achieve plan goals.
Action Plan
The most important component of a watershed plan is the action plan. The action plan is a series of recommended programs and projects for improving the watershed. The action plan ties together the responsibilities of numerous jurisdictions within the watershed so each can contribute their ‘fair share' towards prevention and remedies for watershed problems and opportunities. The action plan provides a basis for coordinating and combining resources between jurisdictions to implement practices to improve the watershed.

Source: Lake County Stormwater Management Commission
Des Plaines River Watershed Phase II Plan and Process
The Upper Des Plaines River Watershed is subject to significant flooding caused by lack of channel capacity of the mainstem Des Plaines River and tributaries to carry major flows during storms. Damaging floods occurred in 1986 and 1987, resulting in over $100 million in damages. Many communities along the river, such as Gurnee, Libertyville, Vernon Hills, River Grove, Wheeling, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights, Des Plaines, Schiller Park, Franklin Park, Elmwood Park, and Riverside suffered significant damages.

Over the past several years, key state and local agencies have joined to form an Advisory Committee to identify ways to (1) provide a higher level of protection than the 25 percent damage reduction provided by Phase I Upper Des Plaines River Project , and (2) incorporate ecosystem restoration and recreation in an overall watershed management plan for the Upper Des Plaines and its tributaries. The Des Plaines Phase II watershed plan, as authorized by Congress in 1999, covers a large, 3-county watershed that drains approximately 456 square miles of land.

The Advisory Committee is the broad group of stakeholders, interested parties and resource agency personnel who advise the Project Management Team (the Corps of Engineers and local sponsors.)

Project Management Team members are individuals representing local Agencies contributing funding to the feasibility study and who are potential project sponsors. The Team makes decisions by consensus and provides direction and oversight to agencies who are performing Scope of Work tasks.

The Corps, along with key local sponsors, will be full partners during the development of the feasibility report. The report will focus on the development of a multiple-objective watershed management plan for the Upper Des Plaines River and Tributaries. Other federal funding opportunities will also be identified. More information, a map, and photos are available on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District, web site.

 (Source: Lake County Stormwater Management Commission)
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