What We Know About the Lower Kankakee Watershed
Watersheds and Subwatersheds in the Project Area
The Lower Kankakee Watershed Initiative project is located in Northwestern Indiana. The land use is relatively homogeneous and consists of 80% agricultural lands and small urban areas. The largest population center is DeMotte with 4,030 residents according to the 2016 census.
The project area is three,10 digit watersheds that drain 291 square miles and covers mostly Jasper and Newton Counties in Indiana. The Lower Kankakee Watershed is made up of 186,778 acres. A majority of the farmland is extensively drained due to the fact that the area was part of the "Grand Kankakee Marsh", once the second largest wetland in the nation. Wildlife areas and recreational spots include Jasper Pulaski State Game Preserve, Spencer Park, and Field of Dreams.
The water quality problems identified are 303d list impairments for fish consumption for Mercury and PCBs and for E.Coli exceeding state limits. There has not been much water quality monitoring nor any watershed planning in these specific HUC 10 watersheds. PCBs and mercury are a legacy issue that will largely take time to disperse and beyond the means of watershed planning.
However, according to the EPA, this region is in the top 25% of contributors to the zone of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.
Nutrients did not show up on the 2016 303d list, but they have in the historical 303d lists.
Historic WQ data from "2010 Jasper SWCD Water Quality Awareness" indicates the presence of high E. Coli levels (multiple samples above 235 cfu/ml) in the lower Kankakee basin, which need to be better identified and addressed because of the negative impact on local wildlife, recreational opportunities, and drinking water supplies. Game fish are found in the Kankakee River. Most sportsmen and locals consume what they catch, so there is a concern about the pollutants that may be present in these fish and in the water.