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Peter Getty is a philanthropist and contributing blogger for the Huffington Post. His work and writings revolve around environmental issues. Getty's philanthropic initiatives, as well as the organizations he supports, are committed to protecting the environment and spreading environmental awareness.

Grants Announced for Chicago Rivers Fund

Peter GettyGrants/Donations for Public/Private Partnership Water Conservation in Chicago

Eight public and private organizations have pledged to improve waterways in the Chicago and Calumet area. The combined efforts of the eight organizations will result in $1 million worth of projects like natural areas along rivers, reducing run-off near Chicago public schools, and the addition of fish habitat in the Chicago River. The new fund, created by these organizations is named Chi-Cal Rivers Fund. The recipients of the grant money include The Nature Conservancy, Friends of the Forest Preserves, Friends of the Chicago River, and Chicago Public Schools.

The first set of grants, equaling $1 million, was assembled by the funds partnershipincluding, ArcelorMittal, The Chicago Community Trust, Crown Family Philanthropies, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Joyce Foundation, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and the Wrigley Company Foundation. This partnership plans to raise $2.5 million for the fund over a three-year period. The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) will administer the money deposited into the fund.

The overall goal of the project is to protect the major waterways in the region.  More specifically, they plan to install over 200,000 square feet of green storm water infrastructure to the area, while also adding over a million additional gallons of storm water storage. They will also build acres of new park space, improve in-stream fish habitat, and restore 500 acres of upland and wetland habitat. These measures will greatly improve the health of the waterways, wildlife, and local population interacting with these environments.

Each grant has a meaningful; reaching impact on the specific community that receives the money. The grant for Chicago Public Schools of $271,313 will support community space and green infrastructure. These improvements will be applied to four Chicago Public Schools: Virgil Grissom, Theophilus Schmid, Donald Morrill, and George Leland Elementary. The new community spaces at these schools will include 12.7 acres of new park, play structures, and turf fields. Additionally, they will install 241,000 square feet of vegetated swales and rain gardens, while adding 1.1 million gallons of storm water storage onsite. These improvements will not only affect the students at these elementary schools, but also the surrounding communities. This plan will greatly reduce storm water runoff throughout the city and allows community member access to green spaces in the middle of an urban environment.

Another grant gives $300,000 to the Friends of the Chicago River. This organization will use the grant to install in habitat structures within the Chicago Waterway System to increase the fish population. Where current habitat does not exist, they will install, no less than, 400 habitat structures. The structures are made of PVC pipe and attached to concrete blocks at the base of the streambed or the bottom of a channel. Catfish, Largemouth Bass, Sunfish, and other species use these structures as spawning cavities and cover, which will lead to more fish and a healthier river.

$271, 313 in grant money will go to the Friends of the Forest Preserves to coordinated the Centennial Network. This network works to restore habitat in the Chicago and Calumet region with the help of over 6,000 volunteers. They plan to use the grant money to restore over 100 acres of land along the Chicago River and the Little Calumet River. To restore habitat, volunteers will work to remove invasive species, disperse native seeds, and install bioswales. These efforts will improve bank stability, increase native plant cover, reduce erosion, improve habitat, and overall improve the water quality of the river.

The Nature Conservancy will receive $157,375 in grant money that they will use to manage restoration activities, control invasive species, and monitor the habitat of just under 400 acres of land in the Grand Calumet Area. They plan to focus on four geographic areas where they will remove invasive species, grow native plants, and closely monitor to prevent non-native species from growing.  The partners that have established these grants that make up the Chi-Cal Rivers Fund want to see a healthy waterway system in the greater Chicago area. They have entrusted the management of the fund to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to make sure the money is properly utilized for maximum benefit to the community. NFWF was founded by Congress in 1984 and focuses on encouraging partnerships between the public and private sectors to promote conservation of U.S. natural resources.

The public and private sector organizations that came together for this fund are diverse, but they all have a commitment to improving the waterways. ArcelorMittal is a steel and mining company, with business throughout the world. They are committed to the sustainable management of the environment and their contribution to the fund is evidence of that.

The Chicago Community Trust is also a partner in the fund. Their foundation connects donors with projects based on the communities needs. In 2012, alone the Trust worked with donors to grant $100 million with non-profits in the area.  Crown Family Philanthropies is an environmental grant making organization.  Their goal is to preserve and restore natural areas using innovative, science-based approaches.

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation was established in 1952. Their foundation supports land conservation through preservation and restoration. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources protects natural, recreational and cultural resources throughout Illinois. They seek to educate and inform current and future generations about the importance of conservation and the value of natural resources.

The Joyce Foundation seeks to promote policies that will improve the Great Lakes region. They focus on supporting research and long-term solutions.  The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Great Chicago is a special government agency, put in place for wastewater treatment and storm water management for Cook County, Illinois. They protect the quality of water in the waterways, protect the source of the water supply, and manage water as an important, vital resource.

The Wrigley Company Foundation seeks to improve the health of people and our planet through sustainability and environmental stewardship. Since 1987, they have donated $60 million to charitable organizations to improve lives.  The efforts of all of these public and private sector organizations have established the Chi-Cal Rivers Fund, which will continue to support projects to improve the health of the waterways in the greater Chicago area.