Ted Gray, eco-hydrologist and director of Living Waters Consultants, stresses the importance of using natural, eco-friendly solutions to improve water quality and restore streams instead of hard engineering.
“We like to make the project look as natural as possible,” he said.
The team consists of Gray, Christian Smith and Larry Leday. Smith is a water resources engineer, while Leday supports with auto-CAD and geographic information systems mapping, Gray said. The small size of the company allows them more room to make “flexible, innovative solutions.”
Living Waters Consultants, which Gray founded in 1996, has won numerous awards for their work, which includes stormwater quality improvement, flood control and stream restoration projects. Living Waters worked with Kane County’s Dundee Township in the Jelke Creek Reclamation Project, which won Dundee Township supervisor Sue Harney the International Erosion Control Association’s 2012 Environmental Achievement Award. They also received the 2008 American Public Works’ Project of the Year award for the Scottwood Wetland Detention Project.
“Often our project goal is to convert a degraded area to a community asset,” Gray said.
The Jelke Creek Reclamation Project, for example, will send cleaner water from the Jelke Creek Bird Sanctuary in Sleepy Hollow into the Fox River, which provides water for Elgin and Aurora, according to Harney. Living Waters Consultants designed the project, helped obtain the grants and oversaw construction, Harney said, completing “90 percent” of the work from August 2009 to August 2010.
The funds came from a 1996 Dundee Township tax referendum, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development Grant.
“Dundee Township is one of five townships in Kane County that are projected to run short on groundwater by about 2020,” Harney said.
If that happens, private wells will run dry, she said. But the Jelke Creek project could reduce the pollutants of the water going into the Fox River by using native prairie plants with deep roots that soak them in, she said. Terraced side slopes that filter runoff are also incorporated in the new design of the sanctuary, according to the project summary.
“It has greatly improved water quality in the area,” she said.
The project converted 150 acres of a 240-acre site into 18 acres of wetlands, four ponds, 10 fishing overlooks and more than 110 acres of native prairie, according to the International Erosion Control Association’s website.
“The whole site has a lot of interesting aspects,” Gray said.
Harney said Dundee Township has worked with Living Waters Consultants on two other projects, which were streambank stabilization efforts.
“Why spend a lot of money for a structural solution that only gets weaker over time?” Gray said. “Using an environmentally sound approach can make for easier permitting, lower construction costs, and much-improved site aesthetics not to mention water quality and wildlife benefits.”