Wonder Lake Restoration

On December 17, 2008 at 7:00 P.M., the Village of Wonder Lake will hold a hearing to consider creating a one-time Special Service Area (SSA) taxing district for the restoration of Wonder Lake.

The purpose of the SSA is to generate funding to address the degraded condition of Wonder Lake, a private, man-made reservoir created by the construction of a dam across Nippersink Creek. Ninety seven square miles of largely agricultural areas drain to Wonder Lake, and since the lake was created in 1929, approximately three million cubic yards of eroded sediment have accumulated in the lake. The accumulated sediment is creating serious water quality impacts, as well as restricting recreational use of the lake. The need to dredge this accumulated sediment was first discussed by the MPOA in 1964.

The proposed one-time SSA will fund a $ 5.9 million restoration plan for Wonder Lake, and represents a community wide investment by property owners to protect and enhance the community’s single greatest asset. This project will allow approximately one million cubic yards of sediment to be dredged from Wonder Lake, and be pumped to a sediment dewatering facility on an 80 acre site. That landowner is donating the use of that property to the MPOA for a 10-year period. As the sediment is dewatered and dried, it will be sold as topsoil due to its high organic content. The proceeds from the sediment sale will hopefully fund additional sediment dredging.

As every parcel within the proposed SSA boundary has deeded lake rights or contiguous access to the lake, the critically needed dredging will help protect and enhance the portion of parcel market value attributable to having deeded lake rights. More importantly, properly planned, the SSA could be the catalyst to allow the dredging funds to be leveraged into providing watershed- and county-wide benefits.

Ongoing efforts to find outside dredging funding sources have been unsuccessful, as the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), the most likely funding source of water quality projects, does not fund dredging projects. However, as the dredging of Wonder Lake was included as a recommendation in the 2007 Nippersink Creek Watershed Plan (NCWP), the amount spent on a SSA funded dredging project could be used as the 40% local cost-share match for a IEPA Section 319 grant. A similar arrangement was undertaken in central Illinois in 2003, as described at http://www.epa.state.il.us/news-releases/2003/2003-055-lake-arlann.html

Under this arrangement, up to eight million dollars in federal cost-share funding could potentially be obtained to implement NCWP recommended water quality enhancement projects through the entire Nippersink Creek watershed, which comprises approximately 25% of McHenry County.

Any of these NCWP water quality projects implemented upstream of Wonder Lake will serve to further protect and enhance the water quality of Wonder Lake, Nippersink Creek, and the Fox River.

As the Fox River is already utilized as a source of drinking water in Kane County, and groundwater shortages are predicted for those portions of McHenry County closest to the Fox River, watershed wide efforts to protect and enhance the quality of the river and its tributaries are essential. The restoration of stream corridors and wetlands, as recommended in the NCWP, will further serve to protect and enhance McHenry County groundwater recharge areas.

As mentioned in the county’s own Stormwater Management Ordinance, Wonder Lake is also important to the management of stormwater in the Nippersink Watershed. The restoration of Wonder Lake will enhance the ability of Wonder Lake to manage stormwater and protect downstream properties.

On November 1, 2007, the MPOA board of directors, recognizing the benefits of restoration of Wonder Lake, voted by a 60% majority to pursue the Special Service Area.

On November 21, 2007, the Village of Wonder Lake unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the restoration of Wonder Lake, funded through a SSA administered by McHenry County.

On March 18, 2008, the McHenry County Board, by a 16 to 7 margin, passed a critical resolution supporting the creation of a Wonder Lake Special Service Area (SSA) through the Village of Wonder Lake (VWL).

Details of the MPOA dredging / SSA outreach efforts plan can be found on the MPOA web site, http://www.wlmpoa.org/

Details of the Nippersink Creek Watershed Plan can be found on the committee’s web site, http://nippersink.org/