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Hegewisch Marsh 

Unit

Little Calumet River

Ownership

Chicago Park District acquired 100-acre parcel from City of Chicago in 2011. City to transfer 17-acre parcel to Park District in late 2011. Approximate 10-acre MWRD parcel is a 39-year renewable lease.

Size

100 acres; expansion to 127 acres is planned.

Location

Intersection of Torrence Avenue and 130th Street in Chicago, Illinois (Hegewisch neighborhood).

Description

Hegewisch Marsh is approximately 100 acres of undeveloped woodland and wetlands with no known prior commercial, industrial, or agricultural use. Hegewisch Marsh is an INAI site, identified as 130th Street Marsh. Illinois endangered and threatened species known from the site include: yellow-headed blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus, IL E), common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus, IL T), and little blue heron (Egretta caerulea, IL E).

Environmental Issues

The City has completed negotiations with the Norfolk & Southern Railroad to purchase an adjacent 17 acre parcel which is divided into two parcels. As of December, 2007, the City had finalized a sales agreement with N&S for the eastern parcel and hopes to have the sale final by January 2008. This parcel will be used for the development of the Ford Environmental Center. The City will pursue acquisition of the western parcel via the 2nd-year grant from the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant. The grant is restricted for only habitat projects (acquisition, restoration and management); the parcel will have no developments. Phase 1 and Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessments have been conducted on the entire Norfolk 17 acres and final reports are expected in January 2008. In late 2006/early 2007 the City secured a lease on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District 10 acre parcel for management/restoration access. The City secured the first year of an anticipated 2-year grant from the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant that will be used to purchase this parcel outright. They made application for the 2nd year of the grant in June 2007; awards are announced typically by January. As indicated above for the N&S parcel, this grant is restricted for only habitat projects (acquisition, restoration and management); the parcel will have no developments. Additionally, the City is undertaking significant road improvements at the intersection of 130th and Torrence Ave. The construction activities will require significant wetland mitigation pursuant to the Interagency Wetland Policy Act. That wetland mitigation will take place, in part, on the Hegewisch site.

In March 2008, the City oversaw the installation of a water control structure at Hegewisch Marsh to facilitate wetland habitat management. Funding for the structure was secured via a grant from the IDNR C2000 Program. The City of Chicago concluded that the site posed no threat to human health, however rehabilitation needed to remedy years of neglect, industrial dumping, and fly dumping.

Contaminants/Remediation

The site of the Ford Center will not be transferred to the IDNR in any potential future property transaction. In mid-2005 the City’s Department of Planning and Development informed IDNR that it is ready to transfer Hegewisch Marsh proper to us immediately. IDNR declined any immediate transfer as premature given available knowledge about environmental conditions at the site. The Department of Environment appears to recognize that there must be a process for the City and IDNR to meet to identify and resolve any potential environmental liability and other management issues prior to any property transfer. IDNR has since been working with the City on their environmental sampling activities. Additional results indicated hot spots with elevated levels of lead, zinc, and DDT on the main 102-acre parcel. These are located near the southwestern edge of the open marsh. The City plans to continue meeting with the Calumet Ecotoxicology Technical Team (most recent meeting was November 2007) to identify cleanup and/or remediation alternatives for these areas, but does not plan to enroll the site in the IEPA's Site Remediation Program or pursue a No Further Remediation letter for the parcel. The City will engage in cleanup and remediation as funding and partners become available. In the interim, the City will utilize institutional controls by limiting/restricting public access to these areas.

Restoration

Two National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants (NCWC) totalling $1.1 M have been used to fund 5-plus years of restoration efforts. Work has included invasives control (herbicide/cutting/burning), seeding, tree planting, debris removal, establishment of path system. HUD funds ($75 K) are also being used to fund restoration. ARRA Stimulus funds ($1 M), administered through the Forest Service, and are being used for the work of the Greencorps Chicago - Calumet (GC-C) ecological restoration job training program. GC-C's work is throughout Calumet, but has been able to focus to a large extent on Hegewisch Marsh. These stimulus funds are also being used to rehabilitate lead-contaminated soils at the site. A water control structure was installed in 2008 and will require maintenance/management.

Public Access

Will be implemented with development of the Ford Environmental Center.

Public Use

Environmental education and nature observation.

Next Steps

A new grant for $125 K was recently awarded through Wal-Mart's funding of the Acres for America program. This grant will continue to fund the restoration efforts of DOE and GC-C. An IGA is being drafted to outline restoration and mangement responsibilities of the Park District and City moving forward.