Wetlands Group Seeks to Add Land to Research Site

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Byline: Bill Cole Daily Herald Staff Writer

Officials with an internationally acclaimed wetlands research project near Wadsworth hope to add half as many acres of high-quality wetlands this year as now are included in the site.

With those additions, the Des Plaines River Wetlands Demonstration Project marshes could grow from the current 100 acres to 150 or 175 acres, said board President Robert Neal.

The Lake County Forest Preserve District owns the 550 acres making up the project and its underground pump-fed wetlands. But funding shortages have hampered the project.

"We really moved at a snail's pace until about a year ago," Neal said. "Now we're in a position where we can move forward with some real substantial research."

Neal hopes to do so with greater private sector fund-raising and the further use of "land-banking," a term for creating wetlands using money paid by developers who are building elsewhere and displace existing wetlands.

Land-banking helped wipe out an approximately $300,000 deficit from several years ago, Neal noted. This year's $901,000 budget relies 93 percent on mitigation land-banking.

At an introductory meeting for four new wetlands board members Monday, Neal and Donald Hey, the project's executive director, provided an overview of the 15-year project, as well as detailing what lies ahead. …