By Lee Filas Daily Herald Staff Writer
The Pape Island shoreline looks like a mix of rock piles and tree roots
to the untrained eye. But to those in the know, it's the future of
shorelines across the Chain O' Lakes.
The 2,100-foot shoreline in the northern-most section of Pistakee Lake
is being rebuilt, and in the process it was turned into a "how-to"
display of techniques property owners can use to stop erosion on their
Using rocks, rip-rap, lunker boxes and root balls, the state-funded Fox
Waterway Agency stabilized the shoreline naturally, rather than with a
concrete seawall like those used across the Chain.
Connie Novak, spokeswoman for the Fox Lake-based agency, said Pape
Island has been pounded into submission and washed away by years of
waves and ice.
"The high amount of boats and the strong wind gusts coming off the lake
cause waves to buffet this area consistently from April through
December," Novak said. "In addition, the winter winds cause large ice
shanks to rip out a portion of the shoreline, so this island never gets
a break at all."
Waterway officials noticed the problem last summer, when shoreline run
off from the island started to fill in neighboring Governor's Channel.
It forced agency officials to close portions of the major waterway
route between Pistakee and Nippersink lakes for emergency dredging
around the busy Independence Day weekend.
"A lot of that was due to Pape Island's shoreline," she said. "We
decided that we needed to find a way to stabilize the shoreline from
Instead of installing the standard concrete wall, agency officials
changed course, Novak said.
Officials decided to create a "model home" of natural techniques
homeowners can use to rebuild shorelines.
Six "new" techniques in shoreline stabilization using large boulders
and rocks, tree roots, stumps logs and water absorbing plant life are
being created on the island.
The techniques include combining large rocks and burlap bags in wire
mesh boxes - called a Gabion Basket - to build a wall or combining root
balls and logs with large boulders to buildup a new, sloping shoreline.
"We can create a natural habitat for wildlife through the use of the
tree roots and the rocks," she said. "It's also inexpensive from a
The shoreline stabilization is costing the agency about $1.2 million,
Novak said. The amount of shoreline being repaired is the reason for
the high cost.
"We have to use large equipment here to build up 2,100 linear feet of
shoreline," she said. "But homeowners who own only 100 feet of
shoreline can do it pretty easily with household tools."
It also reinforces requests by the Illinois Department of Natural
Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers for waterfront property
owners to stop building cement seawalls because they don't reduce waves
like natural buffers do.
Leesa Beal, acting chief of the Army Corp's regulatory branch, said
cement and steel seawalls cause residual damage to natural shorelines
because of the waves.
"We strongly discourage people from installing a concrete or steel
seawall," she said. "The wave reflection does not do the area any good,
and a concrete and steel seawall all but destroys natural shorelines
where animals are able to nest. We are trying to do away with them as
much as we can."
The project is expected to be completed in April, Novak said, and
people will be able to view it from the water off the coast of Pape
"We think it's a great model for us," she said. "It shows people
exactly what can be done to help reduce shoreline erosion for
Coast: Natural techniques are cheap
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