The East Lagoon on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL, traditionally has been a favorite spot for relaxing, studying and feeding the ducks. It was included with the original 63 acres that were deeded to the state of Illinois in 1895.
In the 1930s the Civil Works Administration, part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal program, completely relandscaped the lagoon area. The first university commencement was held on the island of the lagoon in 1942. The Kishwaukee River, one of the few rivers in the Northern Hemisphere to flow north, feeds the lagoon.
In August 2001, crews for Whittaker Excavation of Earlville, IL, began to drain the East Lagoon as part of a comprehensive $8.5-million storm water improvement project aimed at alleviating flooding that has plagued the university for many years. The lagoon had been silting in for years resulting in depths being reduced to literally inches.
Crews began the project by draining the water from the lagoon into the adjacent Kishwaukee River. Once the lagoon had sufficiently dried, Whittaker was able to move its equipment to the site to begin removing the silt. Some of the silt could be distributed along the banks of the lagoon, but the majority of the material had to be moved off site. This was accomplished without closing any of the university’s streets.
While crews were waiting for the East Lagoon to dry, they began work on the LaRusso Lagoon, which sits on the west side of campus. This lagoon also was drained, cleared of silt and expanded to about triple its current capacity.
“The increased capacity will allow us to retain more water and release it in a more controlled manner. This will reduce flooding problems as it flows down stream to the East Lagoon and then ultimately into the Kishwaukee River,” stated Patricia Perkins, Northern Illinois University’s assistant to the executive vice president of Division of Finance and Facilities.
“When this work is completed, both lagoons should be much healthier and much more attractive,” Perkins explained, noting that part of the project will include the planting of a variety of native plants along the shores of both lagoons.
Phase II of the storm water improvement project took place this summer. This part focused on the creek that flows through campus connecting the two lagoons. The creek banks are being improved to better facilitate the flow of water.
The university hopes these improvements will greatly reduce the flooding on campus. In 1996, the campus sustained more than $1 million in flood damage when heavy rains pushed the creek over its banks and damaged several buildings.