US Army Corps of Engineers
Chicago District

Calumet Harbor and River/Chicago Area Waterway System Feasibility Study

The federal navigation channels in the Chicago Area Waterway System are a vital part of the local and 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 & River.

An annual average of 50,000 cy of sediment dredged from the channel and placed in the Chicago Area Confined Disposal Facility (CDF). Ongoing shoaling in the Cal-Sag Channel is expected to create a minor additional dredging need within the next 10 years.

Life-extension measures are being utilized at the CDF, and a new plan for placing material is needed to allow dredging to continue beyond 2022, when the existing facility is expected to close. USACE is developing a Dredged Material Management Plan (DMMP) for the maintenance of Calumet Harbor & River and the Cal-Sag Channel over the next 25 years.

Project Area:
Calumet Harbor & River is located on Lake Michigan in the City of Chicago, Ill. The federally- maintained project includes 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 down 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, used by deep-draft vessels are 29 feet in the approach channel, 28 feet in the outer harbor, and 27 feet in the river. The Cal-Sag Channel extends from the junction with the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in Lemont, Ill. 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. The Cal-Sag Channel is maintained at a useable depth of nine feet.  

Project Benefits:
Commercial navigation activities at the Calumet Harbor and River and Cal-Sag Channel projects are regionally significant, supporting more than 4,200 jobs and $702,450,000 in annual sales. Calumet Harbor & 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 Cal-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.

If a plan for managing dredged material is not implemented, sediment would accumulate in the federal channel, reducing the safe depth at which vessels can operate, forcing them to carry less cargo. Shipping costs would increase, impacting businesses at the harbor.

Project Status:
Maintenance dredging of Calumet Harbor & River produces an average yearly volume of approximately 50,000 cy of material. In addition, it is expected that approximately 30,000 cy of sediment will need to be dredged from the Cal-Sag
Channel over the next 25 years. The Calumet River and Cal-Sag Channel sediment is too polluted to be placed in Lake Michigan or used as clean upland fill. Currently, material dredged from Calumet Harbor & River is placed in the Chicago Area CDF, which is full. It is being managed to extend the life of the facility, however it is anticipated to close in 2022.

Total facility capacity will be about 1,060,000 cubic yards of dredged material. The capacity reserved for Cal-Sag Channel sediment, whose quality is similar to that of the Calumet River, is approximately two percent of the overall storage capacity. While Cal-Sag Channel dredging may not be necessary over the life of the proposed facility, space is required to be reserved in order to meet the federal requirement of regionalization of such facilities.

The proposed plan included a recommendation to build a replacement sediment facility to contain sediment dredged from the Calumet River and Cal-Sag channel. Calumet Harbor sediment, which is suitable for upland use as clean fill, would be used beneficially as construction material for the new sediment facility and as cover for the existing CDF during closure.

A Draft DMMP was first released for public review on June 9, 2015, and a public meeting was held on June 22, 2015, to provide additional information and accept comments. The tentatively- selected plan (TSP) in the Draft DMMP contained recommendations for managing material dredged from the Calumet Harbor & River and the Cal-Sag Channel through development of a sediment facility at the former Republic Steel Site; a 43-acre site located along the Calumet River at 122nd St. and Carondolet Avenue in Chicago, Ill. The Chicago District was advised that the former Republic Steel site has since been sold and that plans for site redevelopment would not accommodate the sediment facility. The Chicago District is re-visiting its site selection process to determine whether conditions have changed in the project area and whether other potential sediment facility sites have become available since the 2015 Draft DMMP was released. In addition to the sediment facility sites previously analyzed, the Chicago District is seeking to identify other sites for future analysis. Upon completion of a collaborative site identification process that includes public participation, the District will complete evaluations to identify a new TSP.

Project Manager

Monica Ott