LINCOLN PARK — North Pond in Lincoln Park is drying up, but an effort to restore the manmade body of water got key city approval last week — and work could begin in November.
The city’s Plan Commission voted Thursday to approve the $7.3 million project spearheaded by the Lincoln Park Conservancy, which has raised more than $6.8 million in private funding for the restoration.
“That was the biggest checkbox to check off, so now we feel very confident that our timeline is on track to start work by Thanksgiving,” said Doug Widener, executive director of the Lincoln Park Conservancy.
Widener previously told Block Club the pond’s “days are numbered” after excess erosion caused it to fill in.
The waterway, built in the mid-1880s, is only 2 feet deep at its lowest points, and runoff is bringing nutrients into the water that exacerbate its problems with algae and evaporation.
The pond was partially restored in the 1990s, but it was never dredged, so the water remained shallow and its long-term problems went unaddressed, Widener said.
The pond doesn’t have any natural inlets to replenish water, so the Park District uses a spout to refill it with city water when it gets too shallow.
But the treated city water has fluoride and other additives that can be harmful for aquatic wildlife, Widener said.
The Lincoln Park Conservancy, which supports the Park District by raising money for ecological projects outside of its budget, plans to address these issues by dredging 25 percent of the pond to be 8 feet deep. Other parts will be kept shallow or at varying depths to maintain the area’s biodiversity.
The plans also include limiting the pond’s reliance on the city water spout by spraying a non-toxic polymer to bond with sediment at the bottom, forming a natural barrier to prevent water from leaking into the ground below.
Widener said the polymer, which will need to be replaced every decade, should conserve about 70 percent of the water the pond is losing. Another 10-15 percent of the water loss will be prevented through drains that filter rainfall back into the pond.
“We’d love to eliminate or definitely reduce the amount of city water that goes in so this place can be more sustainable,” Widener said.
With approval from the Plan Commission, the proposal can move forward through the city’s other permitting processes, Widener said. Work could be finished by this time next year, he said.
“Getting this approval was critical to keep us on track with having all our permits approved by the end of September,” Widener said.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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