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 cubic yards (cy) of sediment are dredged from the Calumet Harbor and River 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 10-20 years.

Life-extension measures are being utilized at the existing facility 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 20 years.  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) from the 2015 Draft DMMP is no longer feasible, so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District (Chicago District) re-visited the site selection process to determine whether conditions had changed in the project area and whether other potential sites may have become available since the 2015 Draft DMMP was released. In addition to the sites previously analyzed, the Chicago District sought to identify additional sites for analysis in the project area through a public involvement campaign with stakeholder organizations and local residents in 2018.


Calumet Harbor & River is located on Lake Michigan in the City of Chicago, Illinois. The federally-maintained project includes an approach channel and outer harbor channel, protected by two miles of breakwater, and the river channel. The federal navigation project extends 4.4 miles within the harbor and 6.7 miles along 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 of this deep-draft waterway are 29 feet in the approach channel, 28 feet in the outer harbor, and 27 feet in the Calumet River. The Cal-Sag Channel extends from the junction with the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in Lemont, Illinois to the Little Calumet River, and to the junction with the Calumet River at 130th Street in Chicago. The Cal-Sag Channel is maintained at a useable navigation depth of 9 feet.  

Calumet Harbor and River and the Cal-Sag Channel are part of a larger transportation network in the Chicagoland area and Illinois. Shippers make use of cargo handling services at the port, as well as locally available rail and truck transportation, warehousing, and fuel sources. These industry interactions and associated monetary transactions contribute to Illinois’ economy with sales, employment, labor income, and gross regional product. The Port of Chicago (which includes Calumet Harbor & River and the Cal-Sag Channel) is the second busiest port on the Great Lakes by tonnage. Commodity movements in the Cal-Sag Channel are predominantly through-traffic, travelling between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Calumet River.

If a plan for managing dredged material is not implemented, sediment would accumulate in the federal channels. The reduction in channel dimensions may cause vessels to light-load, resulting in increased transportation costs.

Maintenance dredging of Calumet Harbor & River produces an average yearly volume of approximately 50,000 cy of material. In addition, it is anticipated that approximately 30,000 cy of sediment will need to be dredged from the Cal-Sag Channel some time over the next 20 years. The level of contamination in Calumet River and Cal-Sag Channel sediment is prohibits it’s placement in Lake Michigan or beneficial use as clean upland fill.


The proposed plan includes a recommendation to build a replacement sediment facility to contain sediment dredged from the Calumet River and Cal-Sag channel on the same footprint as the existing Chicago Area CDF. 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.  No material suitable for beneficial upland use would be placed in the new facility.

The total amount of dredging anticipated to occur over the 20-year study period is 1,030,000 cy.  The total facility capacity will be about 530,000 cy for contaminated dredged material. The capacity reserved for Cal-Sag Channel sediment, whose quality is similar to that of the Calumet River, is approximately three percent of the overall dredging need in the study area over 20 years. While Cal-Sag Channel dredging may not be necessary over the life of the proposed facility, space is required to ensure that this unique connection between the Great Lakes and the Inland Waterway System is maintained.


USACE will be accepting comments on the draft Chicago Area Waterway System Dredged Material Management Plan and integrated Environmental Impact Statement through August 1, 2019. Comments may be submitted by email to  or mailed to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District

ATTN: Planning Branch

231 S. LaSalle St. (Suite 1500)

Chicago, IL 60604

(Link to 6-18-19 news release: Public comment period extended again for draft Chicago Area Waterway System Dredged Material Management Plan, integrated Environmental Impact Statement)

Project Manager

Mike Padilla

Background Information / Reports (1982 - 2017)