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Protecting Lake Michigan’s coast

On Friday, March 9, Loyola’s Klarchek Information Commons played host to three big names: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, and Jane Lepchenko, head of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The three government leaders visited Loyola to mark the official start of Illinois’s participation in the Coastal Zone Management Program (CZMP), which makes the state eligible for $2 million in annual grants to restore and conserve coastlines.

Illinois is the last of 34 states eligible for the program to approve funding for coastal conservation, which was first signed into law in 1972. Illinois has more than 63 miles of coast along Lake Michigan, and the state’s coast is one of the most densely populated and urbanized areas on the Great Lakes. The conservancy projects, which still have to be decided on, will be carried out by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and could cover issues such as restoring coastline and fighting erosion.

Though there are no set plans for coastal conservancy projects along Loyola’s Lake Michigan border yet, Aaron Durnbaugh, director of sustainability at Loyola, says with the introduction of this new program, Loyolans should consider the benefits Lake Michigan offers and the issues that threaten this resource.

“What a Loyola student should think about when it comes to Lake Michigan is that it is an awesome resource we are so lucky to have,” he says. “We sit in this jealously regarded location where we don’t have to worry about access to clean water, access to beaches, and places to bike.”

“However, we can’t take it for granted,” he adds. “We need to think of water conservation and pollution, and invasive species, and be aware of those as a risk and a threat.”

He says that while Loyola won’t have to worry about rising water levels, like some oceanic coasts, there are other parts of the nation and world that have far less access to fresh water, and may increasingly rely on the Great Lakes for their water needs. Even the Chicago suburbs get water from aquifers and rely on complex treatment plants to get quality water, says Durnbaugh.

In addition to announcing the CZMP, Quinn, Durbin, and Lepchenko were debriefed on Loyola’s sustainable facilities and programs. Durnbaugh says Loyola’s ability to hold storm water on-site, and funnel it back into the Lake Michigan basin, was a big hit with Quinn who values storm water conservancy because it helps protect the Chicago River. The officials were also impressed with Loyola’s new Cuneo Hall and the biodiesel program.

For more information on CZMP, visit the IDNR website here.

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