Chesterton Tribune



Deep River/Portage Burns Waterway Watershed Initiative to launch Tuesday

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Working together with local communities and organizations, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) is kicking off a project to improve water quality and restore aquatic habitats in the Deep River-Portage Burns Waterway watershed.

NIRPC identified the watershed as a priority area in a 2011 study due to the nearly 125 miles of stream in the watershed listed as “impaired” by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). The impairment designation means portions of these streams do not currently meet state water quality standards or their ability to support swimming and fishing are at risk.

NIRPC has been awarded a $455,550 grant from IDEM to develop and begin implementing a watershed management plan to address the negative impacts associated with storm water runoff from urban and agricultural areas that carry pathogens, sediment, and nutrients into nearby streams.

The project will begin with the first in a series of public meetings on Tuesday, Jan. 21, at at the Hobart Community Center located in Festival Park at 111 East Old Ridge Road. NIRPC will be providing an overview of the four year project, a brief description of the watershed and most importantly begin documenting watershed concerns identified by attendees.

The watershed includes several municipalities within its boundaries including the entirety of Hobart, Lake Station, Merrillville, and New Chicago along with portions of Cedar Lake, Crown Point, Gary, Griffith, Portage, Saint John, Schererville, and Winfield. Watershed management planning helps to ensure that investments in water quality are made where they do the most good.

NIRPC will use this information and the guidance of a steering committee to begin drafting a watershed management plan that provides a framework to improve water quality and aquatic habitats within the watershed.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to engage as many partners as possible when dealing with something as challenging as storm water runoff. It’s one of the biggest threats to our region’s streams and ultimately Lake Michigan,” says Joe Exl, a water resource planner with NIRPC and the project’s coordinator. “By using a watershed approach we can begin to understand what the most important issues are, prioritize what work needs to be done and then combine resources to make positive changes that benefit the region as a whole.”

Anyone interested in the project and that would like to receive future meeting announcements and project updates may contact Meredith Stilwell at

to be added to a project information e-mail distribution list.



Posted 1/17/2014