Highland News Leader

Conservancy awarded grant that will help it protect Highland’s water supply

Get a tour of Highland’s Silver Lake and learn about conservation efforts

Highland Parks and Recreation Director Mark Rosen and Natural Resource Manager Ryan Hummert explore Silver Lake by boat. Learn how the city is trying to improve the water and save the lake's storage capacity.
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Highland Parks and Recreation Director Mark Rosen and Natural Resource Manager Ryan Hummert explore Silver Lake by boat. Learn how the city is trying to improve the water and save the lake's storage capacity.

Highland city officials are lauding news of a $450,000 grant awarded to improve the city’s Silver Lake Watershed.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency grant was awarded to HeartLands Conservancy and will fund installing projects that reduce water pollution in the watershed.

The funding is made available through the Clean Water Act and was made possible through the Highland Silver Lake Watershed Plan, which laid out a strategy for improving water quality at the lake. The plan was approved by the IEPA in 2011.

City Manager Mark Latham said it’s big news for the city, which relies on the lake for its water. He said the funding will help the efforts to maintain the lake, which has served as the city’s main water source for more than 50 years.

The 550-acre lake supplies water to more than 5,000 customers in Highland, St. Jacob, Grantfork, Pierron and unincorporated areas of Madison and Bond counties.

Heartland’s Conservancy Project Manager Janet Buchanan lauded the efforts of the City of Highland, who she said was instrumental in obtaining the grant.

“The city has been proactive about its stewardship of the lake over many years, and has worked with partner organizations on several studies and projects aimed at improving water quality,” she said. “We are so pleased to be able to offer financial support for projects that will protect soil on the land and improve water quality in the lake.”

The following types of projects are eligible for funding:

  • Cover crops/Green manure

  • Grassed waterway

  • Nutrient Management Plans

  • Ponds/Wetlands

  • Shoreline Stabilization

  • Stream channel and streambank stabilization

  • Water and Sediment Control Basins

  • Woodland improvement.

Latham said the lake will need shoreline stabilization and sediment control in the future.

Because of erosion and sediment runoff that occurred between 1962 (when the lake was first built) and 2005, an estimated 22 percent — or 754.8 million gallons — of the lake’s water-holding capacity was lost.

That sediment also dampens water quality and helps to bring chemicals like phosphorous into the lake. To stop this, the city explored shoreline stabilization and protection projects. This year the city worked with the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District to encourage farmers to use cover crops to reduce erosion.

Latham said the cost-share program will make the process much easier and less of a burden on homeowners.



“When it was built back in the 50s I don’t think anyone really knew how quickly sediment could get into a lake,” said Latham. “It has been one of the top priorities since I’ve been here to preserve the lake and do a better job of maintaining that watershed… It’s really good news.”

IEPA and the City of Highland will prove 60 percent of the costs of eligible projects, while the landowner or local parents must contribute 40 percent of the costs. Project costs may include design, permits, materials and labor.

A sign-up period for the cost-share program will be announced sometime in the future. landowners and local governments may apply if interested in implementing one of the projects in the watershed.

The conservancy also is concluding work on an additional implementation grant in the upper Silver Creek watershed in Madison County.

Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, holding officials and institutions accountable and tracking how taxpayer money is spent.


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