Chicago Tribune staff report
Federal officials today announced $1 million in grants to fund two green infrastructure projects on the North Side with the aim of improving water quality in Lake Michigan.
Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the two Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants today at a press conference attended by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Dick Durbin, U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky.
“Green infrastructure also helps prevent flooding, which is occurring more often as a result of the increasingly frequent extreme precipitation events that have hit the Midwest in recent years – a pattern that may intensify as the result of climate change,” said Susan Hedman, EPA Region 5 Administrator/ Great Lakes National Program Manager, in an e-mailed press release from the agency.
The city plans to use a $812,000 grant to install bioswales and permeable pavement in a parking area at Montrose Beach on the North Side, officials said. The aim of that project is to annually filter more than four million gallons of stormwater, thereby reducing the amount of stormwater contamination that currently leaches into the lake.
In addition to that project, the city plans to use a $188,000 grant to install infrastructure along Leland Avenue in Uptown. The street runs through the north side neighborhood to the lakefront. The aim of the endeavor is to prevent almost 900,000 gallons of untreated stormwater from entering the city’s sewer system each year and prevent basement flooding in area structures.
Durbin said that the EPA has invested more than $70 million to help keep the lake clean.
“These grants will help stop almost 5 million gallons of untreated stormwater from running into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, great news for the millions of Chicagoans who rely on the lake for drinking water or fishing,” Durbin said in a statement. “Lake Michigan is one of Chicago’s greatest assets.”
In a statement, Emanuel said the grants to the city, one of 16 cities to receive funding, “will directly benefit residents, businesses and the environment.”
The grants will fund 50 percent of the “green” infrastructure projects. Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soil and natural processes to hold and filter stormwater and melting snow, according to EPA officials.