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
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
"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
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
For more information, contact project principals of
Changing Course , Scott Goldstein, MPC's vice president of policy &
planning, at 312.863.6003 or firstname.lastname@example.org; and Joyce O'Keefe, Openland Project's
associate director and policy director, at 312.427.4256 or email@example.com .