Re-Envisioning the Chicago River

Adopting Comprehensive Regional Solutions to the Invasive Species Crisis

In response to a public health emergency more than 100 years ago, engineers reversed the Chicago River and built the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to carry wastewater away from Lake Michigan, the city’s source of drinking water. The canal also provides a shipping link between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, opening navigation not only to recreational boats and commercial barges, but also to invasive species, and it diverts massive amounts of water from Lake Michigan. The unfolding Asian carp crisis reveals more than just the challenges faced by local, state, and federal agencies in stopping invasive species from entering the Great Lakes. It also exposes critical infrastructure deficiencies in the region’s wastewater, stormwater, and transportation systems.