Lake Calumet Region Information





The Political Education committee works to educate our elected representatives as well as our members about Sierra Club legislative priorities. We lobby our local and state politicians for better environmental laws and policies, and endorse candidates who support the environment. Since the Sauk Calumet Group covers such a wide geographic area, we welcome the help of our members in visiting or contacting their elected representatives to educate them on environmental issues affecting our state and local areas.

You can find information about Sierra Club endorsements for Illinois at .

The Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed the following people from the Sauk Calumet region.

  • Dan McLaughlin for Orland Park Mayor
  • Cesar Guerrer, Hudson Holllister, and Warren Davis for Joliet City Council
  • Jackie Traynere for Mayor of Bolingbrook



Pat Coffey wrote a letter to The Herald News for saving the fen at the Joliet Junior College.

Click to view the letter.






Hegewisch Marsh Update: The Chicago Department of Environment announced that Walmart has donated $100,000 for the restoration work at Hegewisch Marsh. 

As part of the 130th Street and Torrence Ave. project, a railroad access road is to be built in Hegewisch Marsh which will run parallel to Torrence Ave. south of 130th Street. According to the permit, the final development would impact a total of 2.83 acres of permanent impacts to wetlands to construct the road. A mitigation purchase of 1.83 acres is to offset the impacts.

Say No to Illinois EPA Permit Extension for Toxic Disposal on Lakefront:Friends of the Parks (FOTP) and other environmental groups are calling for closure and capping of the 42-acre Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) just north of Calumet Park along Lake Michigan. The CDF has reached its legal capacity with toxic dredged material taken from the Calumet River for nearly 30 years. According to the 1982 contract, when the CDF is filled, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) will close and cap the CDF and turn it over to the Park District for a lakefront park. 

Now the ACOE seeks a 5-year permit extension from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to continue to dump toxic material into the CDF. The FOTP states that it is time to close and cap this facility. See the FOTP website for more information.

Coal Gasification Legislation Signed:: On July 13, Governor Quinn signed the legislation that will let this project to be built on the former Republic Steel Coke Plant site at 114th and Burley Ave. proceed. At a community meeting on August 24 at St. Simeon Church, not all residents of the southeast side were convinced of benefits. In fact, most residents felt their concerns were ignored. 

See article by Gregory Tejeda, Times Correspondent, August 24, 2011, “Not all swayed on coal gasification plant plan,” at

Environmental Justice Forum:An Environmental Justice Forum is scheduled for Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 7:00 p.m., at The Zone, 11731 S. Ave. O, Chicago. This event is sponsored by the Sierra Club, Southeast Environmental Task Force, The Zone, Jaun Diego Center, East Side United Methodist Church, New 10th Ward Community Service Organization, and People for Community Recovery. Visit for more details.

Wildlife Survey Update:Southeast side residents are waiting for the wildlife report for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) 140-acre property on the Calumet River. MWRD ordered the survey last April after many, many requests from the residents, environmental group,s and agencies This survey will include the 33-acres proposed to be leased to the city for a regional police outdoor firing range. The lease was removed from the March 17, 2011 agenda of MWRD; we are hoping it will wait until after the wildlife survey is completed.


Members of the Sauk Calumet group particpate in volunteer workdays with other orgainizations. Some of them are listed below.

Bartel Grassland

Cook County

Will County

Midewin Tallgrass Prairie

Orland Grassland

River Watch


Bartel Grassland

The Bartel Grassland, named for the late bird-bander Karl Bartel, is a Cook County Forest Preserve in Tinley Park, bounded by Ridgeland, Flossmoor, Vollmer and Central Roads. The grassland is best viewed from the south side of Flossmoor Road with a small opening on Central Avenue, and a pond at the corner of Vollmer and Central. Parking is available at the model airplane field on the north side of Flossmoor Road and east of Ridgeland.

Osage orange hedgerows have been removed and the area is beginning to attract a number of grassland birds. Short-eared owls and hawks have been spotted during the winter.

A mixture of prairie species will be seeded in the area to provide an attraction to grassland nesting bird species such as bobolink and Henslow’s sparrows.

To learn more go to the Bartel Grassland website.

Cook County

The Friends of the Forest Preserves orginization has volunteer workdays in the Calumet region. Their website also links to other volunteer oportunities through the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

Cook County workdays are also listed by the Calumet Stewardship Initiative.

More Cook County Forest Preserve District workdays are listed HERE.

Will County Forest Preserves

The Will County Forest Preserves has volunteer workdays in Will County.

Midewin Tallgrass Prairie

The Midewin Tallgrass Prairie website has current information. The Calendar page has volunteer activity and other scheduled events at Midewin.

Orland Grassland

The Orland Grassland website has volunteer workday information for the Orland Grassland.

River Watch

Sally Wieclaw and John Field collecting samples. Photo by Mike Rzepka

Since 1996 the Sauk-Calumet group has participated as citizen-scientists with the Illinois RiverWatch Program to monitor Hickory Creek. Illinois RiverWatch is the stream monitoring component of the volunteer monitoring initiative coordinated through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). RiverWatch volunteers conduct biological monitoring and stream habitat surveys on wadable Illinois streams.

Data collected thru monitoring are submitted to a statewide database that will be used by professional scientists to gauge long-term trends in the health of Illinois ecosystems. Specifically, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will use RiverWatch data in its next state of the environment report, known as the (CTAP).

A part of the stream assessment includes the collection of indicator organisms using a sampling method. The organisms collected are benthic macroinvertebrates. These are invertebrates that are both big enough to see with the eye and that live at least part of their life on the bottom of a body of water. Wading in the stream is necessary to collect the sample. That is a lot of fun!

Different organisms react to pollution in different ways. Some, like bloodworms and leeches, are pollution tolerant. Others, like mayflies and stoneflies, are highly susceptible to pollution. By analyzing the make-up of the sample, information about the health of the stream can be determined. By comparing sample results taken over a number of years, water quality trends become evident.

You can learn more about the Illinois RiverWatch Network at the website:

CTAP (Professional) & EcoWatch (Volunteer) Data can be accessed through the Illinois Natural History Survey's Website Search by Site I.D. R0209003 to view the results for Sauk-Calumet’s Hickory Creek work.

If you want to get your feet wet in this fine program contact Mike Rzepka, the RiverWatch Program coordinator for the Sauk-Calumet Group.