Working together with local communities and organizations, the Northwestern
Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) is kicking off a project to
improve water quality and restore aquatic habitats in the Deep River-Portage
Burns Waterway watershed.
NIRPC identified the watershed as a priority area in a 2011 study due to the
nearly 125 miles of stream in the watershed listed as “impaired” by the
Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). The impairment
designation means portions of these streams do not currently meet state
water quality standards or their ability to support swimming and fishing are
NIRPC has been awarded a $455,550 grant from IDEM to develop and begin
implementing a watershed management plan to address the negative impacts
associated with storm water runoff from urban and agricultural areas that
carry pathogens, sediment, and nutrients into nearby streams.
The project will begin with the first in a series of public meetings on
Tuesday, Jan. 21, at at the Hobart Community Center located in Festival Park
at 111 East Old Ridge Road. NIRPC will be providing an overview of the four
year project, a brief description of the watershed and most importantly
begin documenting watershed concerns identified by attendees.
The watershed includes several municipalities within its boundaries
including the entirety of Hobart, Lake Station, Merrillville, and New
Chicago along with portions of Cedar Lake, Crown Point, Gary, Griffith,
Portage, Saint John, Schererville, and Winfield. Watershed management
planning helps to ensure that investments in water quality are made where
they do the most good.
NIRPC will use this information and the guidance of a steering committee to
begin drafting a watershed management plan that provides a framework to
improve water quality and aquatic habitats within the watershed.
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to engage as many partners as
possible when dealing with something as challenging as storm water runoff.
It’s one of the biggest threats to our region’s streams and ultimately Lake
Michigan,” says Joe Exl, a water resource planner with NIRPC and the
project’s coordinator. “By using a watershed approach we can begin to
understand what the most important issues are, prioritize what work needs to
be done and then combine resources to make positive changes that benefit the
region as a whole.”
Anyone interested in the project and that would like to receive future
meeting announcements and project updates may contact Meredith Stilwell at
to be added to a project information e-mail distribution list.