McCook Levee, Illinois

Section 205 of the Flood Control Act of 1948 (P.L. 80-858), as amended


In partnership with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District (USACE) is working on a project to address flood risk in the Villages of McCook, Lyons, and Summit, Illinois. While two existing levees, locally named the “McCook Levee” and the “West Lyons Levee,” are providing some level of protection for these communities, flooding risk remains due to overtopping risk, risk of breach prior to overtopping as a result of seepage, and a lack of maintenance and repair of the existing structures. Significant flooding was experienced behind the McCook Levee portion of the project area during a record flood event in April 2013. The source of flooding was identified as levee overtopping. Levee assessments conducted by USACE has identified stability and seepage issues with both structures in its current condition, and the associated risk of levee failure is considered to be high. The project will repair and improve the existing McCook Levee in two segmented sections, and the West Lyons Levee along its approximately 1,400-foot alignment.

The McCook and West Lyons levees are located on the west bank of the Des Plaines River in western Cook County, about 10 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. The area at risk of flooding includes industrial and residential areas within the Villages of McCook, Lyons, and Summit, Illinois. The area potentially impacted by flooding by possible failure or overtopping of the McCook Levee is entirely industrial. The industries include a recycling company, repair shops, trucking and intermodal facilities, manufacturing operations, and an oil and fuel handling facility. The area potentially impacted by flooding by possible failure or overtopping of the West Lyons Levee is entirely residential.


The project involves the following: restore the levee to elevation 602.5 ft NAVD88; repair and improve the existing McCook levee to include removal of existing levee encroachments such as placing compacted fill where roots, animal burrows, or other encroachments have compromised the integrity of the levee; clear all invasive species vegetation from the McCook Ditch system and make various repairs on pipe inlets and outlets, add a small amount of fill; stabilize and protect the riverside toe and in the Des Plaines River proper with dolomitic limestone riprap; construct two (2) small segments of tieback levee; construct a new concrete headwall and a sluice gate with a trash rack at the south entrance to the culvert under Lawndale to keep flows at a level that can be drained through the Summit conduit without causing interior flooding; install a new culvert just south of Lawndale to allow water flowing through McCook ditch to drain to the Des Plaines River with a flap gate to prevent flow from the Des Plaines River from entering the McCook Ditch at that location; install clay blankets on the north and south sides of the railroad slope at the intersection of the levee with the railroad, to tie into the levee crest elevation; install a new culvert with flap gate to drain the northern portion of McCook Ditch to the Des Plaines River; and repair the existing West Lyons Levee to high ground.


The project is currently in the construction phase. A contract was awarded in September 2019. Field work is expected to be completed in the fall of 2020.

During construction and during the months of August 2020 through November 2020, the bike path that sits on top of the levee embankment that was built to protect the homes and business next to the Des Plaines River from flooding will be closed. The path will continue to run on top of the repaired levee once construction is complete. In addition, part of the construction involves removing trees within the levee footprint and easement for future maintenance and inspection of the levee, and to ensure that the integrity of the levee is not damaged from tree roots that can create holes in the levee. Native grasses and forbs will be planted on the slopes which have the additional benefits of biodiversity, wildlife habitat, erosion control, and aesthetics.