Chicago Park District Board Approves Plans to Restore North Branch of Chicago River
The Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners today approved a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to restore parts of the north branch of the Chicago River. The project is estimated to cost $14,539,000 and is to be completed by 2022.
The scope of the project includes restoring approximately one acre of stream bed, 29 acres of savannah habitat and 14 acres of river bank in and adjacent to River, Legion and Ronan Parks. The project would also include replacing the dam at River Park with a grade control structure to allow for passage of fish and paddle crafts, which will allow for new recreational opportunities.
“I am very excited that the board has given us the green light to move forward with this project” said Mike Kelly, General Superintendent and CEO of the Chicago Park District. “Upon its completion that section of the Chicago River will not only be more aesthetically pleasing, but also provide many more opportunities for recreation activities to visitors and residents of the area.”
Currently much of the riverbanks in these parks are steep and inaccessible to the public. The dam at River Park fragments the entire branch of the river and is not conducive for recreation and wildlife.Restoration of the area would provide a more suitable habitat for the many migratory birds that visit the park, including Green Herons and Belted Kingfishers. After the restoration the riverbank will become more accessible to patrons and the removal of the dam will allow passage for fish as well as kayaks and canoes.
The Park District is partnering with the USACE and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) in this five year project. The majority of the funding for the project is expected to come from the Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecosystems Restoration Program, a section of the USACE. The Park District and the MWRD will split the remaining cost of the project evenly. The USACE anticipates funding for the first phase of the project, which includes modifications of the dam and the habitat improvement at River Park, should be available in 2017-2018. The Chicago Park District and MWRD will contribute about $380,000 to phase one funding each.
“Removing the dam will provide access for people and improved aquatic habitat,” said MWRD President Mariyana Spyropoulos. “This partnership is a great example of intergovernmental cooperation to benefit the water environment and enrich the quality of life for our constituents.”