HeartLands Conservancy is embarking on a watershed planning process for the Lower Silver Creek watershed.

Watershed planning is a way to identify water quality and flooding issues and create potential solutions. The planning process will use technical analysis along with public input to create a long-term vision for the improvement of water quality and drainage. When complete, the Lower Silver Creek Watershed Plan will make recommendations that will decrease flood damage, improve water quality, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and encourage wise stormwater infrastructure in areas draining to Silver Creek in St. Clair County.

Image Popup

The watershed project area contains over 124,000 acres, almost all of which is in eastern St. Clair County. The watershed drains the area from where Silver Creek crosses the Madison-St. Clair county line in the north to the point where Silver Creek joins the Kaskaskia River in the south. The watershed includes eight municipalities, including Mascoutah, Lebanon, O'Fallon, Freeburg, and Shiloh, as well as Scott Air Force Base. It is part of the larger Lower Kaskaskia Watershed.

This plan follows the success of the Upper Silver Creek Watershed Plan, which was approved by Illinois EPA in November 2015 and is being finalized for adoption by Madison County. HeartLands Conservancy recently secured an Illinois EPA 319 grant of over $500,000 for implementing Best Management Practices identified in that Plan which address pollution and stormwater drainage in the watershed. The Lower Silver Creek watershed is located directly south of the Upper Silver Creek watershed, and the watershed plan will build on the model used there.

Image Popup

As in the Upper Silver Creek watershed, HeartLands Conservancy will work closely with St. Clair County and key organizations such as the Soil and Water Conservation District, the Farm Bureau, the Mid-America Airport, and Scott Air Force Base.

Public outreach for the watershed plan will begin in fall 2016. HeartLands Conservancy will meet with municipalities, townships, and the public to gather input that guides the watershed planning process. A public Open House event will also be held in the fall, where all will be welcome to learn more about the project and ask questions. The public will be invited to identify problematic flood locations, and to inform the watershed planning team about their vision for the area. Information on the dates, times, and locations of these events will be made available at https://www.facebook.com/HeartLandsConservancy.

Funding for this project comes from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency under section 604(b) of the Clean Water Act. The project will conclude in December 2018.

The following are components of the watershed planning process:

Watershed Resource Inventory

The Watershed Resource Inventory will document existing conditions in Silver Creek and its tributaries, reporting on channelization, erosion, and riparian area condition. Information on soil types, demographics, land use/land cover, geology, and climate will also be collected. Existing levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution will be estimated.

Public and Stakeholder Engagement

A key part of the Plan will be involving elected officials, community groups, residents, and landowners. Individual and small group stakeholder meetings will take place during fall and winter 2016. An Open House event, open to the public, was held in February 2017 and drew around 30 attendees. As the plan comes together, follow-up meetings and additional public Open House events will be held.

Watershed-Based Plan

Using the Watershed Resource Inventory and input from stakeholders and public engagement, the American Bottom Watershed Plan will be developed. The plan will identify solutions for flooding and water quality issues related to infrastructure and land use. These solutions are called best management practices (BMPs). Some potential examples include: streambank stabilization, conservation tillage on agricultural land, federal conservation programs, and policy changes. The Plan will identify the approximate costs of recommendations, a potential schedule for implementation, and funding sources.