The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District is responsible for water resources development in the Chicago metropolitan area, an area of about 5,000 square miles with a population of about nine million, through a variety of projects including flood risk management and storm damage reduction, navigation, aquatic ecosystem restoration, emergency management and interagency and international services.
In 1833 Congress appropriated the first funds to undertake improvements to the harbor at the mouth of the Chicago River and Army engineers began construction of the harbor, creating an important shipping center. 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 and improved harbors 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 Calumet-Saganashkee Channel, better known as the Cal-Sag channel, and constructing Burns Harbor in Indiana.
In the 1980s, the Chicago 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.’ It took over operation and maintenance of the Chicago Harbor Lock and expanded its interagency support.
In the 1990s, the district began several major flood risk management projects in Illinois and Northwest Indiana, developed an enhanced aquatic ecosystem restoration program and started addressing aquatic nuisance species issues. 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.
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. The district maintains readiness to support emergencies in the region, such as the Chicago-area flooding of April 2013. The district also still operates the Chicago Harbor Lock - one of the busiest locks in the United States.
The Chicago District lives up to its mission to provide valued, world class leadership, engineering services, and management capabilities to the diverse stakeholders and partners within the greater Chicagoland metropolitan area and the nation.