Officials Announce New Study to Improve Waukegan Harbor

Published Nov. 7, 2017
   Waukegan, Ill. – Nov. 6, 2017)   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the City of Waukegan and the Waukegan Port District have entered into a partnership to conduct a feasibility study to evaluate a range of alternatives for improving the reliability of Waukegan Harbor for commercial navigation.

   “Maintaining the efficiency of this harbor is important to the region and the Nation,” said Col. Aaron Reisinger, Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District.  “This study builds upon other initiatives we’ve undertaken with state and local agencies to more effectively manage sediment along the northern portion of Illinois’ Lake Michigan coast. We look forward to working with our partners to develop solutions for improving navigation at Waukegan Harbor.”

   Waukegan Harbor is one of 60 deep-draft commercial harbors that are part of the Great Lakes navigation system. Initial federal investment for navigation improvements at Waukegan Harbor began in 1852. Construction of most of the current harbor structures began in 1902 and was completed by the late 1960s and early 1970s.

  “Assuring clear passage and ongoing viability of Waukegan Harbors’ federal and state waterways is critical to the commercial traffic utilizing Lake Michigan for the transport of goods. This project reaches far beyond the benefits to the City and local businesses,” said Grant Farrell, Board Chair of the Waukegan Port District. “Waukegan Harbor is one of only a few Harbors of Refuge on Lake Michigan.  It is important to maintain the federal channel in ways that do not require costly annual maintenance, and help to avoid unexpected shutdowns due to coastal storms and shoaling.”

   Since 1977, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has dredged the harbor’s approach channel to maintain sufficient depths for navigation. Since 2009, there has been a marked increase in the amount of sediment being deposited into the harbor’s approach channel and the outer harbor following coastal storms. This accumulation of sediment, known as shoaling, has caused intermittent closures to commercial navigation, resulting in a decrease in harbor use by local industries. 

   "Waukegan Harbor is part of a larger regional system of sand migration affecting both the natural and built Lake Michigan coast," said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Wayne Rosenthal.  "This study will help us understand the system so we can develop sustainable strategies to protect our shoreline."

    The estimated study cost is $700,000, to be shared 50/50 between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the three non-federal partners. Completion of the necessary coastal modeling and analysis, economic analysis, preliminary design and cost evaluation of the alternatives, and development of the feasibility study report is expected to take about two years. 

  “This project is an important step in understanding our lakefront and the direction forward for our community,” said Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham. “In addition, the opportunity for Waukegan to form lasting partnerships through this process is also something that we value a great deal. I sincerely thank all of those involved in the planning and implementation of this effort for their common vision and long-range understanding of Waukegan’s future.”

Lynne Whelan

Release no. 17-013