Chicago River

Chicago District
Published Jan. 9, 2024
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Project Description and Background

The project consists of a river navigation channel that is 2.97 miles long at -21.0 ft LWD from Michigan Avenue to North Avenue. A navigation channel approximately 3.7 miles at -9.0 ft LWD deep from North Avenue to Addison Street is also authorized, but not constructed. The project includes a perpetual responsibility for water control and emergency monitoring of the waterways within the Chicago District.

There is shoaling in numerous areas between Kinzie Street and North Avenue of the currently maintained project, but commercial barge traffic is not severely affected. Channel maintenance for the portion of the river between Clark Street and the head of the navigation channel at Addison Street has been deferred until local marine traffic requirements necessitate this effort. The water control manual for the Chicago Harbor Lock and Chicago River Controlling Works, last updated in FY14 to capture all current agency requirements and more recent operating agreements with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), will undergo an update in FY22.

Current Status

Routine operations and condition surveys; water control management, monitoring and reporting; coordination with local stakeholders; and generation of routine documents (e.g., Annual Flood Damage Reduction Report (AFDRR), annual reports, minor water control manual updates) in support of flood risk management mission and USACE requirements.

There has been recent interest in encroachment and future deauthorization of a part of the project – the North Branch Canal, located on the east side of Goose Island, between North Avenue and Chicago Avenue. This approximately one-mile-long segment of federal channel has not been used for commercial navigation for many years, due to the U.S. Coast Guard regulation dated 2 October 1995 to fix all bridges in a closed position, limiting vessel access significantly. Section 408 authority can be employed to allow temporary federal channel encroachments but imposes limits on the type of development that can occur within authorized channel areas. Proponents of the “Wild Mile” floating gardens and recreational development will need congressional assistance to implement channel deauthorization and achieve the redevelopment goals ultimately intended.

Project Authorization

Rivers and Harbors Acts of 1899, 1902, 1907 & 1946