Oklahoma Low Impact Development

Illinois River Restoration Project Information

Funding for this project is a result of a Clean Water Act State Revolving Fund Principal Forgiveness loan awarded by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. The money for the principal forgiveness loan comes as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The ARRA required that states use 20% of their funds on green projects and since all natural methods will be used to stabilize the banks and improve water quality this project qualifies.

 The loan’s purpose is to use natural techniques to stabilize eroding streambanks which will help improve water quality and reduce the amount of sediment entering the system. Loan proceeds will be used in the Illinois River and the Eucha/Spavinaw watersheds in northeast Oklahoma. These two watersheds were selected because several of the waterbodies in them are listed on Oklahoma’s Integrated Report as being impaired by nutrients and related causes. Both watersheds provide water for several communities ranging in size from less than 1,000 to over 300,000. Over $21 million is being directed to the watersheds to improve water quality by instilling best management practices to reduce nonpoint source pollution. While these practices are resulting in noticeable improvements to the nutrient, sediment and bacteria loading, erosion is still a cause for concern. This project will help address this issue by stabilizing streambanks on twelve sites in the Illinois River watershed. Identification and prioritization of sites in the Illinois River and Eucha/Spavinaw watersheds are being done, and as money becomes available additional sites can be repaired.

The type of restoration work that will be done in the watershed is an environmentally sound approach that applies the principles of fluvial geomorphology to restore the stream system as close as possible to its natural condition. This approach will use locally available, natural materials such as boulders, rocks, fallen trees and root wads. These materials will be used to help re-direct the flow of the river to a more natural flow path, thereby taking pressure off an eroding streambank. In addition native plants will be used to re-vegetate the streambank helping to further stabilize them resulting in less sediment being pulled into the stream.


This watershed was selected because it is one of the state’s highest priority watersheds serving as a water supply to numerous communities in several counties, as well as being designated as one of Oklahoma’s scenic rivers. Several stream segments are listed on the state’s impaired waters list for nutrients and related causes. In addition, this watershed has been the focus of an extensive program to implement best management practices and encourage enrollment in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to improve water quality by reducing phosphorus.

Staff from the OCC and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife developed a list of over 48 sites that would benefit from restoration work. Then, to narrow the field down to sites that could be completed within the funding time frame the OCC, staff from OSU and a representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regulatory Permitting division narrowed the list of sites down to 11. Repair of these sites will provide substantial water quality and aesthetic improvement and will be able to be permitted and all work completed within the funding time frame. Four of the sites are located on the Illinois River, one site is on Barron Fork Creek, one site is on Tyner Creek and five sites are located within the city of Tahlequah on Town Branch Creek or a tributary.

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