Envisioning a Chicago Waterway System for the 21st Century

Grant: # 1167

Grant Amount: $500,000.00

Board Decision Year: 2010

Great Lakes Commission (Ann Arbor)

Eder, Tim ([email protected]) 734-971-9135

GLFT - Ecosystem Health and Sustainable Fish Populations-F - Special Projects

Project Details

Through this project, three separation alternatives were identified that stop the open flow of water between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River watershed via the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) and maintain or enhance the system’s benefits through investments in flood management, water quality and transportation. The three alternatives illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of placing barriers in different parts of the CAWS. The Down River, Mid-System, and Near Lake alternatives refer to the location of the barriers relative to Lake Michigan. Analysis of the alternatives focused on the location for barriers to divide the flow of water in the CAWS; improvements needed to maintain the system’s benefits; the timing for implementation; and the costs. The project did not identify a preferred alternative; however, the Mid-System Alternative is the most viable and least costly. Overall, the results of the project show separation can be achieved, while also maintaining or enhancing water quality, flood management, and transportation. The analysis suggests separation is feasible and provides a solid foundation for further dialogue to advance a long-term solution to the AIS threat.


More discussion is needed to: identify the best location for barriers; integrate separation with planned improvements related to water quality, flood management, recreation, and transportation; and incorporate the additional investments needed to achieve separation, without compromising the system’s benefits. Further, this project illustrates a fundamental challenge: Separation will occur in the Chicago and northwest Indiana areas, and almost all of the expenditures will be made in that area. However, the most significant benefit—safeguarding the Great Lakes and Mississippi River from harmful invasive species—will accrue to the broader Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. This “non-alignment” of expenditures and benefits suggests the need for continued dialogue and coordination to determine the most equitable sharing of costs. Ultimately, an effective, long-term solution will benefit both local residents and the region as a whole—and the sharing of costs should reflect that goal. This project was a critical step forward to advance the dialogue on these and other issues.


Final Report
Public Summary
View - CAWS-PublicSummary-mediumres.pdf