Clean, Abundant Water Requires Sound Land Use Planning - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Clean, Abundant Water Requires Sound Land Use Planning

With Lake Michigan stretched out like an ocean, plus miles of meandering streams and rivers, northeastern Illinois' water resources can seem unlimited. Yet the reality is that a good portion of the region's waterways are polluted, and increased development pressures threaten the supply of water in some areas of the region.

With Lake Michigan stretched out like an ocean, plus miles of meandering streams and rivers, northeastern Illinois' water resources can seem unlimited. Yet the reality is that a good portion of the region's waterways are polluted, and increased development pressures threaten the supply of water in some areas of the region.

To determine the best approach to protecting and preserving the region's water, Openlands Project, the Campaign for Sensible Growth, and the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) undertook a year-long study, funded by the Joyce Foundation, to examine relationships between development practices and water quality and quantity management in 12 northeastern Illinois counties: Boone, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle, McHenry, and Will.

The resulting report, Changing Course: Recommendations for Balancing Regional Growth and Water Resources in Northeastern Illinois , was released at a Campaign for Sensible Growth membership meeting on Dec. 16, 2004, at AT&T, 227 W. Monroe St., Chicago.

The report offers an overview of the state of the region's water resources and makes recommendations for improving state policies, watershed planning, and local development practices and ordinances. The authors identify actions that should be implemented to protect Illinois' high quality streams, rivers and lakes from the unnecessarily ill effects of urbanization.

"It is critical for our local and state officials to make sound land use decisions that sustain our water resources," said Scott Goldstein, MPC's vice president of policy & planning, and a project principal of Changing Course . "It can be done, and we intend to put our strategy into action in the coming months and years, for instance by educating local officials, planners and developers on best practices for land use and water conservation."

An encouraging sign is that some state and county agencies, communities and developers already are moving in the right direction, according to Joyce O'Keefe, associate director and policy director of Openlands Project, and a project principal of Changing Course .

"However, most of these efforts are dispersed," O'Keefe noted. "That's why one very important component of our strategy is to work with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to help create an effective statewide watershed program that coordinates local, state and regional efforts."

Indeed, at the meeting, Openlands Project, the Campaign for Sensible Growth and MPC recognized the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) for taking the first steps toward creating such a program and for revamping its oversight of wastewater treatment areas, called facility planning areas.

"There is no end in sight to the region's development, and the IEPA understands that the agency has a critical role in protecting Illinois' waterways and ensuring that drinking water is safe and abundant now and in the future," said Renee Cipriano, director, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. "That's why we are continuing to work in partnership with regional organizations toward adopting a watershed-wide approach to wastewater management that broadens the role of key stakeholders and governmental bodies."

Architect Bill Sturm, principal, Serena Sturm Associates, and Martin Jaffe, professor, University of Illinois at Chicago's College of Urban Planning, also spoke at the event, which was moderated by Chicago Public Radio's environment reporter, Steve Shadley.

After the meeting, O'Keefe and Goldstein held an audio news conference to highlight the report's main points and field questions from the media.

Click here to download Changing Course: Recommendations for Balancing Regional Growth and Water Resources in Northeastern Illinois as a PDF. 

The Joyce Foundation provided special funding for the Water Resources and Sustainable Growth in the Chicago Region project, of which Changing Course is one component. The project also received support through the Campaign for Sensible Growth, which is funded by the Grand Victoria Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and McCormick Tribune Foundation. MPC undertook work on this project as part of its Regional Action Agenda, of which the Campaign for Sensible Growth is a component. Funders include The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, McCormick Tribune Foundation, and Aon Corporation.

The Campaign for Sensible Growth is an action-oriented coalition of government, civic, and business leaders in northeastern Illinois' six counties (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will) working to promote economic development while preserving open space, minimizing the need for costly new infrastructure, and improving the livability of our communities.

Openlands Project protects, expands, and enhances public open space -- both both land and water -- within the greater Chicago metropolitan area, and beyond, into counties across state lines into southeastern Wisconsin, northwestern Indiana, and extreme southwestern Michigan to provide a healthy natural environment and more livable place for people throughout the region. Openlands also advocates for improved statewide policies for the protection of open space across Illinois.

Founded in 1934, MPC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of business and civic leaders committed to serving the public interest through the promotion and implementation of sensible planning and development policies necessary for a world-class Chicago region. MPC conducts policy analysis, outreach and advocacy in partnership with public officials and community leaders to improve equity of opportunity and quality of life throughout the metropolitan Chicago .

For more information, contact project principals of Changing Course , Scott Goldstein, MPC's vice president of policy & planning, at 312.863.6003 or sgoldstein@metroplanning.org; and Joyce O'Keefe, Openland Project's associate director and policy director, at 312.427.4256 or jokeefe@openlands.org .

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