US Army Corps of Engineers
Chicago District

Chicago District restoration efforts along Lake Michigan total 10 projects, 580 acres

This project involves restoring approximately 68 acres of habitat including coastal dunes, oak savanna, oak woodland, and naturalizing streambank. The Portage Park study area is part of the Lake Michigan coastline, located in Porter County in northwestern Indiana.  
The Portage Park feasibility study was approved in August 2012, and the project partnership agreement was signed in May 2013. A five-year construction contract was awarded in September 2014, with a spring 2015 construction start.

This project involves restoring approximately 68 acres of habitat including coastal dunes, oak savanna, oak woodland, and naturalizing streambank. The Portage Park study area is part of the Lake Michigan coastline, located in Porter County in northwestern Indiana. The Portage Park feasibility study was approved in August 2012, and the project partnership agreement was signed in May 2013. A five-year construction contract was awarded in September 2014, with a spring 2015 construction start.

Northerly Island is a 91-acre man-made peninsula on the shores of southern Lake Michigan in Chicago that was a part of Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago to reclaim the lakefront for the public. The construction contract was awarded in September 2012 using a combination of U.S. EPA-managed GLRI, USACE, and nonfederal funding. The nonfederal partner is the Chicago Park District.

Northerly Island is a 91-acre man-made peninsula on the shores of southern Lake Michigan in Chicago that was a part of Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago to reclaim the lakefront for the public. The construction contract was awarded in September 2012 using a combination of U.S. EPA-managed GLRI, USACE, and nonfederal funding. The nonfederal partner is the Chicago Park District.

The Chicago District currently has 32 ecosystem restoration projects recently completed or under construction within its footprint of six counties in Illinois and three in northwest Indiana. These projects have protected or restored over 4100acres of habitat, providing substantial benefits to wildlife and improving the quality of life through compatible recreation such as wildlife watching and hunting for the region’s 9.4 million residents.

Chicago District’s restoration efforts along Lake Michigan include 10 projects, totaling 580 acres. These projects provide critical habitat for a whole host of creatures including resident and migratory birds. The migratory birds – which include falcons, hawks, owls, songbirds, waterfowl, terns and shorebirds – need to find food, shelter and protection from hazards along this portion of the globally-significant 9,000+ mile north-south flyway. The Chicago Museum of Natural History has estimated that, on average, more than 5,000,000 neo-tropic migrant songbirds, a significant portion of the entire North American population, pass through Chicago twice a year using this flyway – an area that contributes greatly to the birds arriving at their ultimate destinations.   

Fort Sheridan, Lake County, Ill.

The study area is located along the western shoreline of southern Lake Michigan east of Sheridan Road in the cities of Lake Forest and Highland Park, Ill.  It consists of eight main ravines, several small unnamed ravines, the ravines’ watersheds, bluff along the coastline, the beach, and littoral zone of Lake Michigan. Construction started in the winter of 2016 and will be complete in the fall of 2023, which includes a monitoring period of three years after construction. Federal funding was provided by U.S. EPA-managed Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) appropriations. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a U.S. EPA-managed federal program that strategically targets the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem.  

The nonfederal partners are the Lake County Forest Preserve, Openlands, the town of Fort Sheridan, and the city of Lake Forest.

This project will restore approximately 200 acres of lacustrine, beach, dune, bluff, plateau, and ravine habitat along Lake Michigan shoreline, and provide significant littoral zone habitat for fishes within 25 miles. Restoration will include approximately 1.5 miles of protected shoreline which is host to thousands of migrating birds and five endangered and threatened plants: buffalo berry, seaside spurge, sea rocket, beach grass, and common juniper. The project will remove/modify excessive infrastructure and urban runoff from the ravines and beach to reduce erosion, improve the habitat for resident and migrating birds, stabilize the bluff and ravine communities, remove non-native and invasive species, and restore the lakeshore habitats.

63rd Street Dune and Beach, Chicago, Ill.

The 63rd Street Dune and Beach project is part of the Lake Michigan coastal zone and is located in northeastern Illinois at 6300 South Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Construction started in 2010 and was completed in December 2011, with a two-year period of establishment of the plants by the Chicago Park District, the nonfederal partner.   

The 63rd Street Dune and Beach restoration site was a degraded lacustrine and coastal beach habitat. The lacustrine habitat includes three lenses of intermingled large and small cobblestone along the existing jetty as habitat for invertebrates, insects, and a variety of spawning fishes.  Interspersed among the stone are randomly placed woody debris to increase the vertical habitat for fishes. Three coastal plant communities were restored, two along the current beach area and one landward of the beach. The two areas within the beach area were restored to a predominant community of marram and little bluestem grass dunes, while the landward-most site was restored to a coastal savanna habitat with the predominant species of oak, sand cherry, and little bluestem.

The project has restored a portion of the Great Lakes coastal habitat while incorporating compatible educational opportunities. The 21-acre permanent restoration site now supports a diverse array of native plant and fish species, and migratory and resident birds. The restored habitats include 14 acres of dune and swale habitats along with seven acres of lacustrine cobblestone pockets and woody debris. This area is used during the migration seasons by waterfowl and several species of shorebirds, including the tricolored heron and the federally-endangered piping plover.

Rosewood Park, Highland Park, Ill.

The Rosewood Beach restoration area is located in northeast Illinois in Lake County. This restoration site is located on the shore of Lake Michigan, approximately 25 miles north of the City of Chicago in Highland Park, Ill. The project is in the design and implementation phase. Construction was initiated in spring 2014 and was completed in September 2018. The nonfederal partner is the Park District of Highland Park.

The restoration design consists of a series of naturalistic offshore protection/habitat islands and peninsulas forming a series of beach cells. Key features include unique naturalistic wave breaks to protect the shoreline from incoming waves, allow for natural shoreline sediment transport, and incorporate areas for emergent native plantings and coastal marshes on their shore-facing sides; ravine restoration to reduce sediment loading to Lake Michigan and to provide unique habitat; daylight ravine mouth with naturally vegetated riffles and pools to filter and aerate storm water; and barrier removal to improve fish access to the tributary stream.

This seven-acre project will restore the connectivity of the ravine mouth to its outlet, Lake Michigan. It includes the removal of the double box culvert and instream weirs, daylighting the channel and restoring the streambed with gravel/pebble/cobble, plus two cobble/boulder riffles to repair stream mouth hydraulics. Restoration of the day-lighted channel will also include a light grading of the streambanks to return appropriate bank slopes and plantings of native riparian vegetation to promote bank stabilization. The bioengineered protective habitat islands will provide significant littoral zone habitat for fishes within a 25-mile radius and improve reproduction of several native fishes including but not limited to: emerald shiner, longnose sucker, shorthead redhorse, silver redhorse, trout-perch, smallmouth bass, rock bass, yellow perch, and walleye. Landward wetland and dune habitat restoration will provide habitat for shorebirds and insects.

Northerly Island, Chicago, Ill.

Northerly Island is a 91-acre man-made peninsula on the shores of southern Lake Michigan in Chicago that was a part of Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago to reclaim the lakefront for the public. The construction contract was awarded in September 2012 using a combination of U.S. EPA-managed GLRI, USACE, and nonfederal funding. The nonfederal partner is the Chicago Park District.  

Northerly Island was used for years by the general public including its paths and walkways, a beach at 12th street, and home to the 1933-34 World’s Fair. It became an airport, Meigs Field, in 1946 until 2003 when it was decided to convert it back into green space for the public and expand the museum campus. Northerly Island is located adjacent to or near the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History. The ecosystem restoration project is located in the southern 40 acres of the peninsula.

Until recently, the southern portion of Northerly Island was used for passive recreation. A paved bicycle path meandered throughout the 40 acres and was surrounded by a prairie-like field that provided limited habitat for many species of migratory birds. The field consisted of a combination of invasive species and random native plants. Additionally, much of the field was mowed and therefore had little ecologic value. Aquatic resources in the project area were limited to the surrounding Lake Michigan. The perimeter of the project area is contained by revetment walls that provide limited ecosystem habitat with very few macrophytes and habitat niches for aquatic organisms to thrive. The project has created 40 acres of significant coastal habitat.          

The 40 acres of coastal habitat in southern Lake Michigan includes 18 acres of oak savanna, 10 acres of mesic prairie, 3.3 acres of wet prairie, 2.2 acres of emergent marsh, 4.1 acres of pond, and 1.7 acres of lacustrine littoral habitat. The project will greatly benefit habitat for a variety of migratory and resident bird species, fish, amphibians, reptiles, insects, and mammals.  Specifically, the state-threatened banded killifish (Fundulus diaphanous) and mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) may benefit from this project.

Portage Lakefront Park, Porter County, Ind.

This project involves restoring approximately 68 acres of habitat including coastal dunes, oak savanna, oak woodland, and naturalizing streambank. The Portage Park study area is part of the Lake Michigan coastline, located in Porter County in northwestern Indiana. 

The Portage Park feasibility study was approved in August 2012, and the project partnership agreement was signed in May 2013. A five-year construction contract was awarded in September 2014, with a spring 2015 construction start.

Jackson Park, Chicago, Ill.

Jackson Park is located in Chicago, Ill., along the western shore of Lake Michigan. Construction started in 2014 and will be completed in September 2019, followed by a monitoring and establishment period of three years (until 2022). Federal funding was provided by U.S. EPA- managed GLRI appropriations. The nonfederal partner is the Chicago Park District.   

The park resides between 56th Street to the north and 67th Street to the south. The eastern boundary is Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan, and to the west Stony Island Avenue. The study area consists of various natural area parcels of land that total about 155 acres. The project is located just south of the Museum of Science and Industry, adjacent to the future Obama Library, and will surround Yoko Ono’s first North America permanent public art installation, “Sky Landing.” 

The project will restore 155 acres of habitat including approximately 18 acres of pond, 20 acres of fringe marsh, two acres of island, two acres of sedge meadow, and 113 acres of oak savanna and woodlands. Restoration measures include the removal of invasive plants and fish species, geomorphic contouring, creation of mud puppy habitat, creation of vernal pools, restocking with native fish species, and installing native plant species in the various habitat types. The preservation and rehabilitation of the character of the cultural landscape, as designed by Frederick Olmsted in 1890, is a significant component of this project.  

The restored habitat adjacent to the southern shoreline of Lake Michigan will greatly benefit a variety of resident and migratory bird species including an estimated 5,000,000 neo-tropic migrant songbirds in addition to water birds (herons, ducks, mergansers, grebes), amphibians, macroinvertebrates, fish, reptiles, insects, and mammals. Specifically, the state threatened mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) should benefit from this project.

Fort Sheridan, Lake County, Ill.

The Fort Sheridan Coastal Habitat Restoration Project (aka Jane’s Ravine), authorized by the Estuary Restoration Act of 2000, constructed 14.5 acres of upland swale. The swale diverts highly-erosive storm water away from Jane’s Ravine protecting this ecologically-significant habitat. The swale, including portions of Jane’s Ravine, are positively impacting nearly 30 acres of habitat. Additionally, this project is adjacent to and compliments the restoration of over 200 acres of habitat in the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Construction was completed in 2010. The nonfederal partner was the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

This project included the restoration of nearly 30 acres of habitat. The Corps portion of the work focused on the rerouting of storm water drainage away from Jane’s Ravine and across an upland area within the basin. The project included the placement of an erosion control mat and fabric, native plant seeding of excavated areas, placement of grade control stone checks, and stabilization of the outflow area. 

Ecosystem benefits:

  • Jane’s Ravine contains some of the rarest plants in Illinois, including a rare community of over 240 species (nearly 200 native) of relict northern-range vegetation (e.g., paper birches and spreading juniper).
  • Jane’s Ravine is adjacent to, and compliments the restoration by others, of over 200 acres of habitat in the Lake County Forest Preserve District.
  • The ornithologists at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History estimate that, on average, more than 5 million migrating songbirds pass up and down the western shoreline of Lake Michigan in metro Chicago. This is a noticeable fraction of the entire population of songbirds that migrate through North America.
  • This restoration project will provide these songbirds and all migratory birds a stop-over site to rest and feed on the right kind of high calorie, high protein seeds, fruits and insects for their long distance trips on this globally significant north-south flyway.
  • Jane’s Ravine and neighboring ravines offer excellent habitat for 51 species of resident birds.
  • Connects to a 1.8 mile multi-use recreational trail from the North Shore Bike Trail on the west to Lake Michigan on the east including the Ft. Sheridan Cemetery and adjacent residential areas.

Lake County Ravine 8, Highland Park, Ill.

The Ravine 8 restoration site is located in northeast Illinois in Lake County on the western shoreline of Lake Michigan, approximately 25 miles north of Chicago in Highland Park, Ill. Construction started in the winter of 2016 and will be completed in September 2020. Federal funding was provided by U.S. EPA-managed GLRI appropriations. The nonfederal partner is the City of Highland Park, Ill.

Ravine 8 is part of the ravine complex in northeastern Illinois on Lake Michigan’s southwestern shore. Precipitation and headwater streams carved out their channels through the Highland Park moraine thousands of years ago, creating the ravines that are present today. Urbanization and development around the ravine has forced significantly larger amounts of water through Ravine 8 during storm and run-off events. These events cause erosion which lead to a loss of native vegetation providing an opportunity for invasive plant species to colonize the disturbed areas. This restoration project seeks to stabilize the natural hydrology of Ravine 8, restore tributary fish habitat, and re-establish native plant communities to enhance near shore wildlife habitat.

Restoring and protecting this rare and valuable four-acre ravine habitat will contribute to the health and sustainability of the Lake Michigan shoreline environment. The project will seek to restore and stabilize the ravine hydrology to improve habitat for native vegetation, improve access to ravine habitat for native littoral fish species, and increase riparian habitat for locally rare species. Although no federal-listed species have been recorded at the project site, project features would be beneficial to federally endangered and/or threatened species that could colonize the area in the future.

Jeorse Park Beach, East Chicago, Ind.

Jeorse Park Beach is located along the Lake Michigan shoreline southeast of Indiana Harbor and Shipping Canal in Lake County, Ind. It is owned and operated by the City of East Chicago, Ind. The construction contract was awarded in September 2016 and construction should be complete by September 2021, followed by three years of post-construction monitoring. The project was funded with U.S. EPA-managed GLRI appropriations. The nonfederal partner is the City of East Chicago, Ind.

The project is adjacent to the Amtrak railroad lines with approximately 14.8 acres of beach and foredune habitat on the lakeside. The beach offers nearly 4,500 feet of shoreline for potential aquatic habitat restoration and over 25 acres of lake bottom. The beach is within U.S. EPA’s designated Grand Calumet River Area of Concern.

This project will address the restoration of habitat types located at or near Jeorse Park including near shore fisheries, beach and foredune. By restoring near shore hydraulics and increasing native floristic quality onshore, this project will provide essential habitat for fishes, migratory birds, reptiles and amphibians.

The restoration project at Jeorse Park Beach will greatly increase the quality of the submerged aquatic habitat ideal for spawning and foraging of native fishes, amphibians and macroinvertebrates. The restoration will increase dune acreage and stability, decrease populations of nuisance bird species and return a more natural flow regime to the near shore current pattern along the beach. It is expected that this project will contribute significantly to removing select beneficial use impairments within the Grand Calumet River Area of Concern.

Lake County Ravine 10, Highland Park, Ill.

The study is in the very early stages. However it has been determined that there is a federal interest in restoring the site assuming a cost effective alternative can be formulated and a cost sharing nonfederal sponsor is available. The study area is located in Highland Park, Cook County, Ill., along the Lake Michigan coast. The study area core is Moraine Park, which specifically resides west of Lake Michigan, east of Sheridan Road, south of Riparian Road and north of Maple Road. The study area also includes the stream channel upstream to Port Clinton Park and the riparian slopes within Port Clinton Park.

Initial investigations have been undertaken and many problems and opportunities have been identified including: restore stream connectivity and habitat diversity; reconnect the ravine to Lake Michigan by modifying man-made structures at mouth; remove all unnecessary riprap substrates from stream channel (4,860-ft), banks and floodplain; restore stream bottom with appropriate habitat; allow woody debris to naturally enter the stream; consider the placement of riffle structures; increase foraging and nesting habitat for state-threatened Mudpuppy; reduce and/or eradicate invasive plant species; remove and/or herbicide non-native and invasive trees, shrubs, forbs and grasses; conduct controlled burns; increase floristic quality, richness and abundance of native plants; plant appropriate plant communities of dune, bluff, and ravine; and increase habitat for migratory and residential birds.

As the Ravine 10 study progresses, a range of alternatives will be formulated. Projects that are in the public interest, cost effective, and compliant with all appropriate laws, executive orders and regulations, will be further evaluated.