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Dredging project near Skokie Lagoons to finish later this summer

Thursday, June 21, 2007
Pioneer Press
by JOANNA BRODER

It will take the Forest Preserve District of Cook County nearly two months longer than expected -- until early July -- to complete a project to dredge a drainage ditch that runs east of the Skokie Lagoons, from about Lake Cook to Willow Road.

The project was supposed to be completed in May, but a number of rainy days causing mud led to the delay, said Chris Merenowicz, assistant director of the Forest Preserve's resource management department.

"This was a job that we were planning on doing when it was cold out and frozen," Merenowicz said, "but for one reason or another we didn't get started until the very early spring, and then we had a lot of rain so we had to kind of hold off a little bit."

The district has been dredging the ditch in an effort to scrape out sediment and soil that has collected over the past 80 years. The built-up sediment has impeded the flow of water, and caused residential flooding problems in Glencoe, Merenowicz said.

In some places, the district has removed up to two or three feet of sediment, Merenowicz said. "It was just unbelievable from what washed down over the course of the last 60 or 70 years."

The projects to dredge the east drainage ditch and remove debris from the west drainage ditch are part of a $100 million bond issued by the district to complete projects at the Chicago Botanical Garden and hundreds of other locations around the district.

The drainage ditches were first created in the 1930s to help keep impure water in the Skokie River from flowing into the Skokie Lagoons. The west ditch runs parallel to the Edens Expressway.

In general, the dredging work has been going well, Merenowicz said.

In late March, the district had to close one leg of a bicycle trail between Tower and Dundee roads. The other side of the trail remains open so that riders can go from the Chicago Botanic Garden all the way south. The leg between Tower and Dundee should reopen within the next week or two, Merenowicz said.

Merenowicz also said that the company doing the construction work has been sensitive to both the district's and the residents' needs. But Steve Saunders, Winnetka's director of public works, said that at least one Winnetka family is "very insistent" that the district revegetate the bare areas left behind their backyard when the district created an access road near their home.

On February 20, the district chopped down so many trees behind Noreen and Martin Hirsch's home on

Hazel Lane
, that their backyard -- which borders the Forest Preserve behind
Forestway Drive
and has always been buffered from view of those traveling on that road -- became visible from the street.

After the district finishes dredging the creek, it does plan to fill in the series of seven access roads with prairie grasses, shrubs, native bushes and wild flowers, Merenowicz said.

The district wants to plant vegetation that will not interfere with future maintenance. "We don't want to do this work and then have, you know, a dozen trees fall back in the water and we can't get to them," Merenowicz said.

A 20-foot path of trees, cleared west of the east drainage ditch to allow maintenance vehicles access to it during the dredging phase, will remain clear, Merenowicz said.

The district also continues to repair broken storm sewer outfalls in the area, Merenowicz said.

 



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