Turbid Illinois Launches Season 3

The week of May 22nd marks the official start of field data collection for Turbid Illinois Season 3.  Turbid Illinois is an Illinois Lakes Management Association (ILMA) sponsored program which encourages self-exploration of our waters and the science that drives our water quality conditions.  The program is also partly supported through the Tower lakes Drain Partnership, which provided the initial sample sites.  This is as stands a completely 100% volunteer driven process.  Below is a few commonly asked questions about Turbid Illinois.

What is Turbid Illinois?

Turbid Illinois (TI) is a volunteer, stakeholder driven, citizen science initiative based off of similar citizen-based groups but with a much narrower focus.  Instead of periodic testing needing a lump sum time investment, the protocol attempts to minimize the time investment to achieve data replication and statistically viable sets of data points.  This allows the data to be used for trend and baseline analysis over a much shorter period of time.

How might this be important to me?

The idea surrounding this project is the simplified concept of “system in vs system out”.  Looking at water clarity at two geographically different points along a water body.  The original concept around TI was investigating daily baseline flow into and out of lakes and reservoirs to determine if the water body was serving to capture material or deliver downstream as a source.  Due to stakeholder interest we have included numerous stream or creek sample points throughout the watershed.  When we see dirty water we may be able to define it as a “load”.  Defining a baseline load will better determine when pulses or heavier watershed loads are affecting our lake and stream systems.  What are the possible reasons?

What equipment do I need?  Is it expensive?

One major goal of this project is to try and put some science in everyone’s hands without applying a price tag that inhibits that very concept.  You should have the following materials at your disposal every time you enter the field to pull samples.

  • 1 water bottle per sample site.  General drinking water bottle will work.
  • Device for measuring depth of water from water surface to water body bed.  I use a folding tape.
  • flashlight or suitable device if you sample late or very early morning.
  • boots if you plan on being in the water, although we recommend staying out of the water if possible
  • Bug spray is sometimes beneficial depending on how bad the spot is

While a few participants have taken it upon themselves to acquire their own means to process turbidity samples we are more than happy to process them for you.  Upon field collection store in a cold place or freeze and we will arrange a pick up for final processing.  If you process your own the data is shared.

I am just grabbing water?  Seems simple enough, is it?

Yes and no.  Physically speaking and in concept the process is very easy, however it is important to be consistent to ensure uniformity of samples.  Samples should strive to be taken at or as near as possible to the same location.  The collection process should be taken in a matter than best represents a typical sample is taken time and time again.  This ensures that the data holds value.  Should you chose to enter the water to sample you must do your best to ensure stream or lake bed materials do not enter your sample.  Once you have established a system of consistent collection, the process is extremely simple and your field time at each site will likely only be a few minutes.

What do we do after sample collection?

Coordinate with program director who you are already in contact with to coordinate pickup for turbidity analysis.  Typically samples should be stored as frozen unless the transfer is same day.  Even if the turnover time is short the sample should be refrigerated to minimize the decomposition of organic material which may slightly skew the final number.  Along these lines, anticipate a rotation of bottles if necessary to allow time for the processing to return bottles to you.

Where should I sample?

This is up to you!  Just a few things to consider.  You should never go onto private property without sufficient permission(s).  In this regard it is sometimes best to work within known public properties such as Village owned parcels or parks.  Avoid sampling areas near pipes, heavily eroded banks, very fast moving water, or areas that are unsafe to complete the sample process.

What happens to the data?

Right now the information is being built into a database repository with the hopes it will be useful for future purposes.  Essentially trend analysis of base water quality in the water bodies sampled.  TI strives to produce an annual document debriefing any significant findings.  Year 1 document is located here:

https://sites.google.com/site/4lakesinitiative/resource-center

Look for Turbid IL Master document.  Year 2 should be out soon.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact current program lead, Brian Valleskey at:

cruiserx43@gmail.com

or any standing IMLA officers or directors.  The list can be located at:

https://www.ilma-lakes.org/officers

 

 

Let’s Talk about Dams Part 1

Fresh off a recent presentation to the Spring Creek/ Flint Creek Watershed Partnership, I thought it might be a good time to post to the Illinois Lakes Blog regarding the subject.  Regardless if you are for or against them there is no doubt that dams are another set of aging infrastructure within the United States and there is little or no money directly available to remove or repair (more specifically public structures), leaving the unenviable “wait and see” circumstance.  This is Part 1 of a 2-part posting.

The oldest “registered”dam in the State of IL is the Fordham Dam in Rockford, on the Rock River listed as completed in 1852, although there are several on the Fox that are believed to be older with no official dates to confer.  The largest dam in the U.S. is the Oroville Dam which was the center of attention earlier this year when 180,000 people were evacuated downstream of the dam due to the potential threat of dam breach in February:  http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/05/18/oroville-dam-timeline-100-days-of-drama/.  There are an estimated 75,000 dams impounding 600,000 miles of river or about 17% of rivers in the nation.  7% of the nations total energy budget is still driven by hydroelectric power.

What the above total does not account for are the lesser dams which may not even appear as a dam to the unknowing eye.  In the State of Illinois along, estimates range in number of some 5,000  to 10,000 dams which fit this criteria.  The numbers range because the vast majority of dams remain unregistered.  Dams vary greatly in function and size, from impounding of reservoirs for stormwater management to impounding a lake for the purpose of hydroelectric power generation.

The State of Illinois Dam Safety Program officially began in 1980 as Public Act 91-1062.  This was briefly amended in 1983 and has remained largely intact as such to this day.  The program essentially classifies dams based on the perception of risk and potential for downstream damage, property loss, and loss of life.  This allows for a means to require individuals, corporations, governmental agencies, etc to inspect and maintain their dams.  The full Illinois Dam Safety Program can be viewed in greater detail here:  https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/WaterResources/Pages/DamSafetyProgram.aspx.

To keep this blog article somewhat relevant to lakes it may be best to keep the discussion centered around the impoundment of lakes and streams.  Within this context, a general  understanding of the basic safety guidelines and the possible environmental impacts of run of the river dams is useful.  Dams like anything else require maintenance.  Unlike infrastructure like roads and sanitary sewer they are unfortunately an afterthought to owners without the prodding of regulatory agencies.  The problem is that to many dam owners, the risk of eventual failure and downstream impact is minor in comparison to the economic impact of recurring maintenance.

To this end all registered dams must undergo a schedule of recurring inspection that is based on the assessed risk associated with the dam failure impact.  This is not necessarily unique to the state of Illinois.  The inspection must be photo documented and approved to meet the requirements of the state’s inspection protocol.  Any deficiencies are to be documented and slated to an improvement schedule also approved by the state.

While ILMA has been unable to receive a direct answer from the state regarding where the liability rests for a failure on an unregistered dam, insurance companies may opt to have dams inspected to determine rates for HOA’s, lake associations, lake districts, or other agencies who maintain or own them.  There appears to be a fine line between wanting to inspect on your own schedule or giving the state the jurisdiction to set the schedule.  It is quite possible that their are non-registered dams that undergo no inspection at all and also possible that landowners have no idea that a possible structure on their proper may qualify as a dam, and the inherent risk that may be associated with it.

By it’s very definition a dam can have quite a variable meaning.  Based on communication with State of Illinois Dams Division Head Paul Maurer, a dam is basically anything that impounds water, more from an artificial sense (manmade vs natural).  From a consulting standpoint approximately 1/3 of the dams that I have been personally involved with from a repair or inspection standpoint would be classified as a dam and were unregistered.  The owner either inherited the structure or it has always been unregistered and the owner has had no interest in getting it registered.  In the event that the structure should need repair, the registration may take place as part of the permitting process.  The process of registration in itself is not altogether pleasant as the owner must take it upon himself to hire qualified personnel to study and inspect the dam to properly rate and assess the condition.

Part 2 we talk more about the environmental issues surrounding dams.

~p0sted by Admin