Here is Leslie Dorworth’s second article in Grist Magazine about the Grand Calumet River. This time she talks about restoration efforts:

The first time I saw the Grand Calumet River, I was driving down the Indiana Toll Road. It was 1996, and I had just arrived in northwest Indiana from North Carolina to take a new job as an aquatic ecology extension specialist with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program.

All around me I could see steel mills and processing plants, and the Grand Calumet, meandering slowly through this highly industrialized landscape like a rare natural jewel. There were herons, egrets, and other birds wading along the banks, and abundant, luscious greenery such as cattails and phragmites (reeds), a common invasive species across the country. Since that day, I have had a chance to canoe portions of the Grand Calumet. From the water, I got a better view of wading birds and ducks diving in the river. Sadly, from up close I could also see that the ducks resurfaced with a layer of oil on their faces and necks.

In a canoe, you also notice something else that so many urban rivers have in common: the extent to which the river’s natural course has been manipulated by humans over the years. The Grand Calumet is frequently diverted through culverts, impassable by boat. When we came to a culvert, we would have to portage the area (pick up our canoes and carry them around) before continuing on our travels along the river.

As an aquatic ecologist, I study the health of ecosystems like rivers, streams, and lakes. The Sea Grant program fosters research and education in the communities of south Lake Michigan. My position is located at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Ind., specifically so that I can participate in local water quality efforts. Read more.