Lake in the Hills approved a $1.3 million contract to continue restoring its portion of the Woods Creek stream bank, which officials hope will help improve the ecology and water quality of the area.
The project is being done in three phases with work starting back in 2019 on the first of three sections. The recent contract, approved at a Village Board meeting in April, will continue the work to the second section.
The restoration will help improve surface water quality and the recharging of groundwater, Public Works Director Tom Migatz said. It also will help the village manage the area’s various habitats.
Part of the reason for the project began with issues of sediment leaking into Woods Creek Lake, Village President Raymond Bogdanowski said.
“What this project is going to do is fix the root of the problem, so we’re not going to have to dredge the lake as often as we have in the past,” he said.
Work on this project and other preservation work around the county are important for water quality, the ecology of the area and potentially recreation, said Destiny Seaton, communication and membership specialist with the nonprofit Environmental Defenders of McHenry County.
It’s also crucial to keeping out invasive species, she said.
“We advocate for this sort of restoration work,” Seaton said. “This work will improve wildlife and attract pollinators, which will also improve farming in the county.”
The project starts at the area of Woods Creek Lake near Crystal Lake Road and goes west through Morningside Park, Migatz said. It will also span more than 4,400 feet west of Randall Road.
The work on the second phase is expected to begin this year and take four to six months to complete, Migatz said. In total, this second phase will start around Randall Road and go more than 2,600 feet west, Migatz said.
Meanwhile, the final phase of the project has been submitted for grant funding. That phase will take place east of Randall Road, Migatz said. Dredging of the area is expected to start in either 2025 or 2026, though village officials hope the work starts sooner.
The project in its total will see the work going from upstream to downstream, Migatz said.
As part of the current phase of the project, work is expected to include stabilizing and grading the stream bank, removing trees, seeding native vegetation and installing toe slope protection to help stop erosion of the stream, Migatz said.
The project’s roots date back to 2011 when an intergovernmental group, which included the municipalities of Lake in the Hills, Algonquin and Crystal Lake as well as the Crystal Lake Park District, received funding through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to create a plan for the Woods Creek watershed, Migatz said.
The first two phases have cost about $2 million, which was paid for using grants from the Illinois EPA, Migatz said.
After the work is completed, it will be on the village to continue to maintain the area. That will include a prescribed burn every seven years and mowing twice a year, Migatz said.
“We’re seeing the intended results of the effort,” Migatz said. “We’re working as good stewards … to protect and create a good watershed.”
Part of the challenge that comes with these projects is the steep costs and the length of time they take, Seaton said. While there are some bodies that carry out this kind of work, they are often limited in their abilities, she said.
As a result, it’s important for government entities to take the mantle themselves due to the continuous work and level of management needed, she said.
As an example, it can take a year to get rid of the invasive species and sometimes another three years before communities see the results of native seeding, she said.
“It takes constant maintenance,” she said. “It takes a while to see the results of all the work you’re doing.”