One of the most beloved, scenic spots on campus will get an upgrade next spring when NIU adds a fountain to the East Lagoon.
However, the addition has more to do with the health of the ecosystem than it does with aesthetics.
The goal is to enhance water clarity and quality in ways that will ensure that algae levels are suitable to sustain healthy aquatic life.
The project includes three main components.
- Most noticeable will be a floating fountain in the north basin of the lagoon, which will be equipped with lights to enhance its appearance at night.
- While the fountain will help oxygenate the water, most of that work will be done by a set of diffusers beneath the surface that will pump oxygen into the water.
- To maximize the benefits, a set of underwater propellers will be attached to a nearby bridge to circulate the aerated water from the north basin into the south basin.
The new aeration system will help maintain the water quality improvements that resulted from a lagoon restoration project that was part of 2001 work to improve storm water drainage on campus.
At that time, the lagoon, which was designed to serve as a catch basin to keep sediment from reaching the Kishwaukee River, had reached a point where the average depth was between 1 and 2 feet – mere inches in many spots.
Meanwhile, a large population of carp (which constantly root in the mud for food) kept the water in a state of constant murkiness, which choked out most aquatic life, which in turn lowered oxygen levels and made the pond uninhabitable for most species of fish and amphibians.
To correct those issues, the university drained the lagoon and dredged it down to an average depth of about 5 feet, with deeper pockets where fish can spend the winter.
After that work was completed, the pond was refilled and replanted with aquatic grasses.
The lagoon, which has been part of the university since its inception, was originally known as Dee’s Pond, named for an ice cutter who ran his business there. It was expanded in the 1930s as part of a Conservation Construction Corps project, and its popularity grew as a hang-out for students.
In 1942, the university even began holding graduation ceremonies there and, over the years, it became a popular spot for weddings and other formal gatherings.