The Chicago District is responsible for water resources development in the Chicago metropolitan area, a unique urban area of about 5,000 square miles with a population of about 9.1 million people.
In 1833 Congress appropriated the first funds to undertake improvements to the harbor at the mouth of the Chicago River. The city soon became an important shipping center and Chicago’s growth was off and running.
From 1844 to 1915, the Corps of Engineers constructed harbors and harbor improvements along the Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin shorelines and in the 1930s completed the Illinois Waterway, linking Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River.
From the 1940s through the 1970s, the district was involved in a variety of military and civil construction projects including Nike missile bases, the military facility at O’Hare, widening the Cal-Sag navigation channel and constructing Burns Harbor.
In the 1980s the district’s support for others grew to include providing construction assistance to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wastewater treatment Construction Grants Program and the environmental cleanup ‘Superfund.’
The district in the 1990s developed an enhanced environmental program, began several major flood prevention projects in Illinois and Northwest Indiana and participated in numerous flood relief and damage assessment efforts. The district also directed the emergency relief effort for the Great Chicago Tunnel Flood, caused by a breach in the floor of the Chicago River. The city’s underground tunnel network flooded, sending river water into subway tunnels, basements and sub-basements in the Loop, Chicago’s downtown business district. The district maintains readiness to support emergencies in the region, such as the Chicago-area flooding of April 2013.
Today, the Chicago District is at work on a diverse range of projects ranging from protecting the Chicago shoreline from erosion to restoring ecosystems along area waterways. From storm and flood damage reduction to maintaining safe navigation, the Chicago District is committed to providing quality, cost effective and environmentally sustainable planning, engineering and construction products and services.
Current projects include the McCook Reservoir, the electric fish barriers located in the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal near Romeoville, IL, the dredging and disposal of contaminated material at Indiana Harbor, flood control projects along the Des Plaines and Little Calumet Rivers, and numerous environmental restoration and protection projects across the region, including ones at Northerly Island, Horner Park and Burnham Prairie. The district also operates the Chicago Harbor Lock - one of the busiest locks in the United States.