Northerly Island

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


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 feet. 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.


The Chicago Park District (CPD) partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement the restoration piece of its Northerly Island 2010 Framework Plan under the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration (GLFER) program. The project re-created six 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 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 CPD the opportunity to offer more educational and programming activities about nature.


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.

The completed project was turned over to the Chicago Park District for routing inspections and maintenance on Aug. 5, 2021. A five-year post construction monitoring period began in 2018 and will continue through 2022.

Project Manager

Nicole Toth

Project Area

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