US Army Corps of Engineers
Chicago District

Northerly Island


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AUTHORITY:

Great Lakes Fishery & Ecosystem Restoration (Section 506, WRDA 2000), as amended.

DESCRIPTION:

The Northerly Island is a 91-acre manmade peninsula located on the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois.  It is south of the Adler Planetarium and provides protection to Burnham Harbor.  The restoration project is about 40 acres on the southern portion of the peninsula.  From 1947 to 2002 the island was home to a small airport known as Meigs Field. Today, the northern end of the island is occupied by a music venue, Charter One Pavilion. Northerly Island’s unique location and vicinity within Lake Michigan provides an ecological refuge to a variety of wildlife.  

Historical information indicated that the peninsula was made out of lake sand.  This project included excavating a pond to uncover the sand and used all material on site to create the grade for each habitat type. The oak savanna has rolling hills with the highest point of about 34’.  The team worked with several groups on the placement and grading of the pond, grading of the site and location of the rolling hills for creating the best habitat locations.  Groups were Audubon, Field Museum, Openlands, Forest Preserve of Cook County, and Shedd Aquarium.

BENEFITS:

The Chicago Park District partnered with the U.S. Corps of Engineers to implement the restoration piece of their Northerly Island 2010 Framework Plan under the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration (GLFER) program.  The project re-created 6 habitat types that existed before the Chicago metropolitan area was developed (lacustrine, dunal pond using Lake Michigan as natural hydrology, emergent marsh, wet prairie, mesic prairie and savanna).  The 40-acres of restored habitat are improving the quality of life for many people that watch wildlife. Millions of birds migrate through the Chicago metropolitan area making the Western Shoreline of Lake Michigan a globally significant flyway.  This project provides food, rest areas and shelter from hazards, and adds to connectivity to the increasing patches of habitat within the City of Chicago, lessening the distance species need to travel to suitable resting and feeding areas.  The project provides critical habitat for the state threatened mud puppy.  It also provides the Chicago Park District the opportunity to offer more educational and programming activities about nature.

COSTS:

Total Project Cost:

 $ 10,800,000

Federal Cost:

 $ 7,100,000

Non-Federal Cost:

 $ 3,700,000

*This project was partially funded with Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funds received from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

STATUS:
Northerly Island was opened back up to the public in September 2015 after being closed for construction. Construction was completed in fall 2017. In the winter/spring of 2016, the Chicago Park District (CPD) closed the east portion of the path due to erosion issues. The Corps' Chicago District worked with CPD to develop the most reasonable and cost effective plan to deal with the erosion occurring at the path on the east side of the pond.  A contract to fix the erosion was awarded in January 2019.  Construction includes taking out the path on the east side of the pond, putting in armor stone between the rock structure and pond, creating a turn-around east of the bridge and planting a portion of site after heavy construction.  Heavy construction will begin in August 2019 and will be completed in November 2019.  Planting will occur in spring of 2020.

Project Manager

Kirston Buczak

Project Area

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