Watershed Management

A watershed simply is the entire land area that drains to a particular waterbody, whether it is a lake or a specific point on a stream or river. Watersheds come in all different shapes and sizes. As rain or snow melt moves across the landscape it can pick up harmful pollutants from the variety of land uses within that watershed and deliver them to our lakes and streams. This type of pollution is known as nonpoint source pollution and it is one of the greatest threats to water quality in Northwest Indiana. We all live in a watershed so we each have a role in maintaining the health of our region’s lakes and streams. The 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan has identified watershed management as a significant implementation strategy to protect and restore our region’s aquatic resources. Using a watershed approach provides a flexible framework for managing water resource quality and quantity within specific drainage areas. The watershed planning process works within this framework by using a series of cooperative, iterative steps to characterize existing conditions, identify and prioritize problems, define management objects, develop protection or restoration strategies, and implement selected actions as necessary.

Updated by NIRPC in 2011, this resource document was created to assist communities and organizations in developing watershed management plans. The Watershed Framework includes a variety of information to help stakeholders characterize existing watershed conditions for their watershed of interest. It has been organized to follow the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Watershed Management Plan Checklist requirements as closely as possible. You can view or download chapters of the Watershed Framework below. If you are interested in developing or updating a watershed management plan for your area and would like technical assistance from NIRPC please contact Jennifer Birchfield, Natural Resource Planner, at jbirchfield@nirpc.org.

  • Chapter 1 Introduction: PDF 
  • Chapter 2 Little Calumet-Galien Sub-Basin: PDF 
  • Chapter 3 Kankakee Sub-Basin: PDF 
  • Chapter 4 Chicago Sub-Basin: PDF 
  • Chapter 5 Implementation: PDF 
  • Project Final Report: PDF 

This project has been funded wholly or in part by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement (2P00E74601) to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Environmental Protection Agency, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.

The Coffee Creek watershed planning area covers an area of approximately 15.7 square mile in northeastern Porter County.  In includes the western half of the Sand Creek-Coffee Creek subwatershed.  The plan’s development was coordinated by the Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy and was completed in 2003.  The primary concerns identified by stakeholders were combined sewer overflows (CSOs), increased runoff, pathogens, sedimentation/erosion, thermal pollution, impervious surface cover, and loss of species diversity/habitat.  Save the Dunes is currently coordinating the development of a watershed management plan through 319 program funding from IDEM for the East Branch Little Calumet River which includes Coffee Creek.  The East Branch Little Calumet River watershed management plan will incorporate pertinent information from the 2003 Coffee Creek plan and provide a foundation for future water quality restoration strategies.

For information about the 2003 Coffee Creek Watershed Management Plan please refer to the links below.

 

The Deep River-Portage Burns Waterway Watershed is identified as a priority area in the Northwest Indiana Watershed Management Frame. The purpose of this watershed template is to provide stakeholders with a “jump start” in the watershed management planning process. To the greatest extent possible it follows the format of the most current IDEM Watershed Management Planning Checklist. It focuses on the resource intensive watershed inventory elements that provide a snapshot of current watershed conditions. Much of this includes desktop analysis and gathering of existing reports and information. Watershed management plan sections that require a public involvement process are left for local groups to complete. Examples of elements that should include a public process include developing a list of stakeholder concerns, identification of critical areas, setting goals and choosing best management practice (BMPs) to apply.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) has created a webpage for the Deep River-Portage Burns Waterway watershed TMDL study.   http://www.in.gov/idem/nps/3893.htm.

The website includes information about:

  • The watershed’s location
  • History
  • Parameters to be addressed
  • Project timeline and upcoming meetings
  • Supplemental information about TMDLs, impaired waters (e303d), and the Deep River-Portage Burns Waterway Watershed template.

 

 

The Deep River-Turkey Creek watershed covers an area of approximately 124 square miles in Lake and Porter Counties making it the largest watershed draining to Lake Michigan in Northwest Indiana. The plan’s development was coordinated by the City of Hobart and was approved by IDEM in 2002. The catalyst of plan’s development was declining water quality and sediment accumulation in Lake George. Additionally stakeholders expressed a need for consistency in local stormwater management programs. Efforts are currently underway to update the plan (Deep River-Portage Burns Waterway Watershed) and meet current IDEMWatershed Management Plan Checklist requirements.

 

 

The Dunes Creek watershed covers an area of approximately 11 square miles in northern Porter County. The plan’s development was coordinated by Save the Dunes and was approved by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) in 2006. The primary concerns identified by stakeholders were excess nutrient,sediment, pathogen, total dissolved solids, and chloride loading as well as impaired biotic communities. Save the Dunes received 319 grant funding from by IDEM to implement a cost-share program to install best management practices (BMPs) in critical areas and also to conduct outreach and a volunteer water quality monitoring program.

For more information about the Dunes Creek Watershed Management Plan and past implementation efforts please click here.

 

The Galena River watershed covers an area of approximately 175 square miles in northern LaPorte County, Indiana and southwestern Berrien County, Michigan where it is known as the Galien River. The LaPorte County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) coordinated the development of a watershed management plan (WMP) for Indiana’s portion of the watershed in 2010. Michigan had completed a plan for their portion in 2003. The primary concerns identified by stakeholders in Indiana include E. coli (pathogens), wetland loss, sediment loading, and protecting the rural character and natural resources of the watershed from increasing development pressure. The Galena River watershed is unique in Northwest Indiana in that the dominant land cover is forestland and not human uses. Therefore much of the WMP focuses on protective measures.

For more information about the Galena River WMP please click here.

The Grand Calumet River is a 13-mile system that runs through the cities of Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago, Indiana. The east and west branches join at the Indiana Harbor Canal to flow into Lake Michigan. The east branch originates at the Marquette Park Lagoons in Gary and flows west towards Indiana Harbor Canal confluence in East Chicago. The west branch has the distinction of flowing both ways, depending on the level of water in Lake Michigan. Most of the time, the eastern half flows to the Indiana Harbor Canal. The western half of the branch flows west into Illinois until it merges with the Little Calumet River in Burnham to form the Calumet River.

The Grand Calumet River has long been recognized as one of the most contaminated rivers in the nation. With a history rich in steelmaking, meatpacking, and oil refining, a cocktail of heavy metalsPCBsPAHsNAPL, and oil and grease was discharged into the river before modern environmental controls were established. For more information about the Grand Cal, including plans and projects underway to restore it can be found at:

Indiana Harbor Canal TSCA – Grand Calumet River AOC – GREAT LAKES MUD

The East Branch Little Calumet River watershed covers an area of approximately 74 square miles in northern Porter and LaPorte Counties.  Save the Dunes has recently (Fall 2011) been awarded a 319 grant from IDEM to coordinate the development of a watershed management plan for this watershed.  Some of the early concerns identified by stakeholders include pathogens, sedimentation, and nutrients.

For more information about the East Branch Little Calumet River Watershed Management Plan, please click here.

The West Branch Little Calumet River watershed planning area covers an area of approximately 54 square miles in northern Lake and Porter Counties.  The plan includes three subwatersheds along the mainstem of the West Branch Little Calumet River.  It also incorporates the sub-basin split in which one portion of the drainage area flows to Lake Michigan and the other which eventually empties into the Gulf of Mexico.  Historically each of these subwatershed drained to Lake Michigan before human alteration.  The plan’s development was coordinated by the Gary Storm Water Management District and was approved by IDEM in 2008.  The primary concerns identified by stakeholders include combined sewer overflows (CSOs), pathogens, sedimentation/erosion, flooding, altered hydrology, and impacts to recreational uses, habitat and fisheries.  Efforts are currently underway to reenergize and update the plan (Deep River-Portage Burns Waterway watershed) while also meeting the current IDEM Watershed Management Plan Checklist requirements.

The Salt Creek Watershed Management Plan (WMP) covers an area of approximately 77 square miles in Porter County. The plan’s development was coordinated by Save the Dunes and was approved by IDEM in July 2008. The primary concerns identified by stakeholders include excess nutrient and sediment loading, high pathogen concentrations, and impaired biotic communities. Save the Dunes is currently coordinating the implementation of the Salt Creek WMP through several projects including a cost-share program for best management practices (BMPs), demonstrating low impact development (LID) practices, water quality monitoring, and education and outreach.

For more information about the Salt Creek WMP and current implementation efforts please click here

The Trail Creek watershed covers an area of approximately 59.1 square miles in northern LaPorte County. The plan’s development was coordinated by the Sanitary District of Michigan City and was approved by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) in 2007. The primary concerns identified by stakeholders include E. coli (pathogens), erosion and sedimentation, nutrients, and hydromodification. The LaPorte County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) has recently received a 319 grant from IDEM to implement a cost-share program targeted toward critical areas in both developed and agricultural areas.

For more information about the Trail Creek WMP and current implementation efforts please click here.