St. James Farm Forest Preserve: Spring Brook Creek Restoration

The completed Springbrook channel as it looks now.

Overview
The Forest Preserve District and several partner agencies are starting a restoration project along 3,200 feet of Spring Brook Creek #1, a tributary of the West Branch of the DuPage River that runs in part through St. James Farm Forest Preserve. Beginning fall 2014 and continuing through 2015, crews will meander the waterway through the preserve and create wetlands adjacent to the creek. Twists and turns in the creek will replace a straight ditch, which was created decades ago to convey upstream stormwater, treated effluent and drained waters from farm tiles of adjoining agricultural fields. The new meanders will connect the creek to the floodplain and allow nutrient-rich floodwaters to flow into the surrounding forest preserve and newly created wetlands, allowing the floodplain to store and filter stormwater. A new creek configuration and the addition of gravels, cobbles, and boulders will improve habitat complexity for macroinvertebrate, fish and mussel species. The project will include clearing invasive, nonnative vegetation from the creek’s upland areas and replacing it with native species.

For the safety of forest preserve visitors, some preserve trails may be closed temporarily for construction purposes. Trail closures will be posted below in the status update, on the St. James Farm webpage and at the preserve itself.

Spring Brook’s restoration through Blackwell Forest Preserve is being planned. Project funding and a timeline for this next phase of restoration have not been determined.

The creek and wetlands restoration is part of a larger Spring Brook Watershed Enhancement — a joint initiative between the Forest Preserve District, DuPage County Stormwater Management, The Wetlands Initiative, The Conservation Foundation, the Wheaton Sanitary District, the DuPage River Salt Creek Workgroup, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority and Wills Burke Kelsey Associates Ltd.

Funding
The majority of this restoration’s funding is being supplied by the ISTHA to satisfy a mitigation requirement associated with the Elgin–O’Hare Western Access project. The remainder is to be funded by seeking grants and philanthropic donations and the District’s Wetland, Aquatic and Riparian Program nontax funds.

Status Update 

October 2015: Construction of the new channel has been completed, flow has been diverted into the new channel, and the old channel has been filled in. The site is in the process of being seeded with native species. In 2016, trees and shrubs will be planted, and over the next three years crews will concentrate on vegetation management.

July 2015: Major construction is on a scheduled break until late summer or early fall. Crews have planted much of the new stream channel with wetland plants. These plants will establish root systems and help stabilize the soil and stream banks before water from existing channel is fully diverted into the new channel later this year. 

Excavation continued in May 2015 and the majority of the new channel will be constructed by month’s end. A new bridge over Spring Brook along the existing service drive was completed and a new pedestrian bridge for a future trail was set in place further downstream.

Excavation of the new stream channel began in April 2015. Meanders and flat floodplains are replacing a straight channel with steep banks. As water flows through these twists and turns, it slows down and allows the stream to rise and fall without eroding the streambanks. Boulders and smaller rocks have been incorporated to provide habitat diversity and streambank stabilization. The water is oxygenated as it churns over these rocks. Tree limbs and large branches are also placed in the creek to provide habitat and carbon inputs. As the limbs decay and decompose, they provide nutrients for aquatic insects.

In March 2015 crews completed removing invasive woody species in the under-story of two small oak woodlands, most visibly on the corner of Mack and Winfield Roads. The replacement bridge over Spring Brook is under construction and excavation of the new stream channel is scheduled to begin in early April.

Download this map to see which areas of St. James Farm — including trails — will be closed through 2015 for visitor’s safety.

 

Crews planting the new stream channel with wetland plants, which will establish root systems and help stabilize the soil and stream banks.
Excavation continued in May 2015 and the majority of the new channel will be constructed by month’s end.
Evacuation of the new stream channel began in April 2015. Meanders and floodplains are replacing a straight channel with steep banks. 
In March 2015 crews completed removing invasive woody species in the under-story of two small oak woodlands, most visibly on the corner of Mack and Winfield Roads. The replacement bridge over Spring Brook is under construction and excavation of the new stream channel is scheduled to begin in early April.
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