IDNR: New Approach to Shoreline Management

For decades, North Shore communities have managed their respective shorelines independently, and have suffered the economic and environmental challenges of individual approaches to the protection of a shared resource.

Communities and public landowners need to work together as a region to manage the precious sand that connects northern Illinois communities to Lake Michigan.

This was the conclusion of more than 40 officials representing communities and businesses from Evanston to Winthrop Harbor at a joint meeting in Waukegan earlier this week.

Recognizing the complex nature of shoreline management, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) Coastal Management Program funded an 18-month project with Alliance for the Great Lakes to facilitate improved collaboration among public landowners on this issue and to enhance long-term capacity.

The project brought together 42 elected, government, and business officials to discuss their communities’ shoreline management issues, hear from experts, and identify strategies for coordinated action.

The problems have been spotlighted at times of both low and high lake levels over the past ten years.

From funding expensive beach replenishment projects to costly dredging after storms, local decision-makers and managers estimate that addressing these challenges on a project-by-project basis can amount to a total cost of at least $3.7 million annually.

As a part of the meeting, the IDNR Coastal Management Program highlighted new projects and partnerships underway to advance identified working group goals and needs.

These efforts include:

  • a partnership with the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute to enhance available technical capacity;
  • a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration-funded project to map the beach and lake-bottom and to better understand sand movement;
  • the establishment of a shoreline monitoring program to track changes over time.

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