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Abstract: Session F  1:55 pm (Back to Session F)
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Adjusting to Channelization and now Climate Change: The Kankakee River Problem and Plan

Robert C. Barr
Center for Earth and Environmental Science
Department of Earth Sciences, IUPUI
Indianapolis, IN

The Kankakee River Basin is one of the most extensively modified watersheds in Indiana. Since 1977 the Kankakee River Basin Commission (KRBC) has struggled to balance drainage with sediment loss, flooding, and a long, increasing list of competing uses. The never-ending cycle of dredging and clearing the river has become increasingly unsustainable, and the politics of an interstate river basin more difficult. The KRBC has never tried to manage the basin in a vacuum; the Kankakee may be the most studied watershed in Indiana, but the questions have changed. For the last two decades, a growing body of work has demonstrated that rivers need to be managed as systems. The “patch here and dredge there” strategy doesn’t work. It simply moves the problem. The KRBC has come to realize this paradigm shift. They have fought with budgets and eroding sand dunes longer than anyone, and there is more sand than money. Following extensive flooding in February and March of 2018, Indiana and Illinois legislators joined with the KRBC to ask the question: “is there a better way to manage this river system?” There are no easy answers, but the KRBC with the help and support of the Indiana Silver Jackets, and Indiana and Illinois legislators, has developed a draft work plan to try and better manage the Kankakee River basin. In this presentation, we will discuss the work plan and how it addresses the challenges facing the Kankakee River system – the Everglades of the North.