DES PLAINES -- To curb the devastating effects of flooding, such as those the Des Plaines River experienced last week, Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn joined 4th and 5th grade students from Cumberland Elementary School to kickoff the “Illinois Rain Garden Initiative,” a green solutions initiative to help reduce flooding, improve storm water management and restore native prairie habitat.
As chairman of the Illinois River Coordinating Council (IRCC), Quinn also announced an IRCC Grant to the Center for Neighborhood Technology. This grant will be used to fund storm water management pilot projects that focus on green solutions along the Des Plaines River where communities were recently flooded.
“In the past week, communities along the Des Plaines River have suffered from record flooding, which has disrupted the lives of thousands of families,” said Quinn. “As we look toward the future, we should encourage the next generation of environmental stewards to use the Illinois Rain Garden Initiative to take control of local flooding and storm water management issues.”
Rain gardens are a low-cost method of improving water quality while reducing flooding and drainage problems. They make efficient use of rainwater runoff, native perennial flowers and grasses, and create a habitat for wildlife such as birds and butterflies. Rain gardens soak up excess rainwater that may normally back up our rivers and lead to flooding.
Illinois’ wetlands once served as the basin to major rainfall. When rivers and streams overflow their banks, wetlands provide storage for water and prevent soil erosion. Through development in flood plains, many wetlands throughout the state were drained.
“Illinois once had 8.2 million acres of wetlands, but today, less than nine percent remains,” Quinn said. “Wetlands are the kidneys of our waterways. They help reduce the severity of flooding by absorbing, storing and conveying peak flows from storms.”
Rain gardens will take small incremental steps to reduce flooding by creating a basin that mitigates the water from going downstream. Similar to wetlands, they will help reduce erosion, prevent sediment and chemicals from entering our streams and rivers, and improve the quality of Illinois’ waterways.
Students from schools across Illinois will learn about native Illinois plant and animal species, microclimates and green infrastructure projects designed to reduce flooding. Working with educators and master gardeners, students will locate, design, rototill soil and plant rain gardens consisting entirely of native plant species on school grounds.
Participating Illinois schools are Roberto Clemente High School, Chicago; Elgin High School, Elgin; Cove School, Northbrook; Deerfield High School, Deerfield; Hynes Elementary School, Morton Grove; Unity Point School, Carbondale; Parkside Elementary School, Lawrenceville; White Oak Academy, East St. Louis; and General John A. Logan School, Murphysboro. For a list of partnering agencies log on to www.raingarden.il.gov
Joining Quinn was Des Plaines Mayor Tony Arredia, School Board President Kris Bass and Cumberland Elementary School Principal Christine Schumacher. Other attendees included representatives from the U.S. Department of the Interior (Bureau of Fish and Wildlife), the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Landscape Contract Association and Oakton Community College.
The Illinois River Coordinating Council is a group of diverse citizens, grassroots and nonprofit organizations, federal and state agencies, sportsmen and river enthusiasts who oversee planning and funding for preservation and restoration of the Illinois River Watershed and all its tributaries, including the Des Plaines River.