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Calumet Harbor and River/CAWS Dredged Material Management Plan

The Federal navigation channels in the Chicago Area Waterway System are a vital part of the regional economy. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) regularly performs maintenance dredging to provide sufficient depths for safe and efficient navigation within Calumet Harbor and River. Material dredged from the channel is currently placed in the Chicago Area Confined Disposal Facility (CDF). Ongoing shoaling in the Calumet-Sag Channel is expected to create a dredging need for the channel within the next 10 years. USACE has developed a dredged material management plan (DMMP) for maintaining both the Calumet Harbor and River and the Calumet-Sag Channel over the next twenty five years.

Project Area:
Calumet Harbor is located on Lake Michigan in the City of Chicago, Illinois. The project is comprised on an Approach Channel and Outer Harbor Channel, protected by two miles of breakwater, and a River Channel. The channel is 4.4 miles long within the Harbor and extends 6.7 miles up the Calumet River to Lake Calumet. Along the River Channel are three turning basins that are also maintained as part of the Federal navigation channel. Authorized depths, with respect to Lake Michigan Low Water Datum (ILGD 1985), are 29 feet in the Approach Channel, 28 feet in the Outer Harbor and 27 feet in the River. The Calumet-Sag Channel, part of the Illinois Waterway, includes both the Calumet-Sag and a portion of the Little Calumet River. The Calumet-Sag Channel extends from the junction with the CSSC in Lemont at River Mile (RM) 303.5 to the Little Calumet River at RM 319.5, and along the Little Calumet River to RM 327 where the project connects to the Calumet River at 130th Street in Chicago. Maintenance is authorized to a useable depth of 9 feet below the normal pool elevation, 2 feet below Chicago City Datum (CCD).

Project Benefits:
Calumet Harbor and River, the third busiest port on the Great Lakes by tonnage, moves an annual average of over 14 million tons of commodities. Two-thirds of those tonnages are moved on deep-draft vessels, with the rest transported by shallow-draft barges. Commodity movements in the Calumet-Sag Channel are predominantly through-traffic, travelling between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Calumet River. Barges transport an annual average of nearly 6.5 million tons of commodities through the channel. Commercial navigation activities at the Calumet Harbor and River and Calumet-Sag Channel projects are regionally significant, directly supporting 2,500 jobs and $455,551,000 in annual sales in the Chicago area and throughout the nation. These activities also have indirect (other industries supporting commercial navigation activities) and induced (generated through spending by associated workers) effects. The total (direct, indirect, and induced) effects support a total of 6,900 jobs and $1,164,919,000 in annual sales. If a plan for management of the dredged material is not identified, sediment would accumulate in the federal channel, reducing available draft. Shipping costs would increase, reducing the economic viability of the harbor.

Project Status:
Currently material dredged from Calumet Harbor and River is placed in the Chicago Area Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) at the mouth of the river, The CDF is maintained by USACE along with a garage facility and stone dock. Maintenance dredging of the channel produces an average yearly volume of approximately 50,000 cubic yards of material. The CDF is at capacity with fill management measures currently being used to extend the life of the facility. It is expected that approximately 30,000 cubic yards of sediment will be dredged from the Calumet-Sag channel over the next twenty-five years. Elevated levels of contaminants including metals, PCBs and PAHs in the sediment preclude open‐water placement of the river material. There is no designated placement site for sediment dredged from the Calumet-Sag Channel.

The proposed plan includes a recommendation to build a replacement Dredged Material Disposal Facility (DMDF) to contain sediments from future river and channel dredging operations. The clean harbor sediment is suitable for upland use and would be used in several beneficial ways: as construction material for the new DMDF; as cover for the existing CDF during closure; as general fill for near-by brownfields and/or recreational areas.

The Dredged Material Management Plan was released for public review on June 9, 2015. Comments must be received by July 15, 2015 and may be submitted by mail to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District, 231 S. LaSalle Street, Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60604, ATTN: Planning Branch; or e-mailed to

A public meeting to provide additional information about the report and accept oral comments was held on Monday, June 22 at 10500 S. Ewing Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. To view a copy of the presentation from that meeting click here.


Project Manager

Monica Ott