Chesterton Tribune



IDEM to fund Deep River Burns Waterway initiative

Back To Front Page

It’s been nearly two years since efforts began to secure funding for the Deep River-Portage Burns Waterway Watershed Initiative, spearheaded by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC).

Now NIRPC has received word from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) that its Section 319 grant application has been selected for funding by IDEM and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NIRPC said in a statement released last week.

Covering nearly 180 square miles of mixed-use land in North Central Lake and Porter Counties, the Deep River-Portage Burns Waterway watershed is the largest watershed in Northwest Indiana’s Lake Michigan drainage area, with such major tributaries as Deep River, Turkey Creek, Main Beaver Dam Ditch, and a portion of the West Branch of the Little Calumet River.

“IDEM has identified approximately 125 miles of stream in the watershed that are considered impaired,” NIRPC said. “Some of the known water quality issues are E. coli, siltation, low dissolved oxygen levels and impaired biotic communities. Impaired biotic communities is the by far the most prevalent issue.”

“Biological impairments differ from some of the traditional water quality issues we are more familiar with like E. coli,” said Joe Exl, senior water resource planner with NIRPC. “Multiple stressors such as habitat destruction, flow alteration, and excess sediment and nutrient inputs from surrounding land uses can all be factors impacting the types and numbers of fish and aquatic insects being observed or not observed in our streams.”

As part of this collaborative effort, IDEM initiated an intensive one-year water quality study this spring to assist in the watershed plan’s development. IDEM is assessing water chemistry, habitat and biological communities at 35 different sites strategically located throughout the watershed, and will use the information collected along with stakeholder input to develop a Total Maximum Daily Load report which will be incorporated into the watershed management plan.

“I was definitely very excited when IDEM informed us that they had selected our watershed for this pilot project,” Exl said. “The resources that the state is putting into these water quality surveys far exceeds what we would have been able to accomplish locally. We’re certainly very grateful.”

IDEM has created a webpage for Deep River-Portage Burns Waterway TMDL study to help disseminate information such as public meeting dates, quarterly water quality data results, and site photographs, at

The next TMDL public meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Dec. 5, at the Lake County Extension and Soil & Water Conservation District offices in Merrillville. The watershed management project is expected to begin this January with a public meeting kick-off which NIRPC will announce as the project start nears closer. NIRPC hopes to draw in other partners as the initiative moves forward.


Posted 10/1/2013