Army Corps of Engineers Shoreline Study
The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has launched an interactive Crowdsource map for the public to leave comments on its Chicago Shoreline Study. The map is available on the Army Corps' website by clicking here. It is recommended that you use Google Chrome to open the site.
On the map, users can pinpoint a specific location along the shoreline and submit a comment for consideration. Comments must be submitted by April 30, 2023.
The USACE will be preparing a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document on the impacts associated with a Coastal Storm Risk Management study in the City of Chicago. The City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District partnered with the Corps to study ongoing shoreline erosion and coastal storm due to variable lake levels and storm-driven waves that impact our shoreline.
The proposed study area includes Chicago's entire shoreline, from our border with Evanston to our border with Indiana.
As a part of the study, the Army Corps will explore various measures that could be implemented along our shoreline to reduce coastal storm risks. These measures include the following:
Structural (e.g., breakwaters, seawalls, revetments, and groins)
Natural and Nature-based features (e.g., beach nourishment, submerged reefs, vegetation, ecologically enhanced structures)
Non-structural (e.g., floodproofing, flood warning plans, emergency evacuation plans)
As part of the NEPA scoping process, the Army Corps is seeking comments or concerns stakeholders have about potential impacts from the various measures that could be implemented. This could include impacts to various habitats, threatened and endangered species, or cultural, historical, and social resources.
Our office has submitted preliminary feedback to the Army Corps for this critical study and has called for the following as they embark on this process:
Commit to a robust community engagement process to allow Chicagoans to provide insight and feedback
The 49th Ward was excluded from the 1994 Chicago Shoreline Storm Damage Reduction Project, which provided infrastructure and protections for just 8 miles of the City’s shoreline. In Rogers Park, private properties are located directly adjacent to the lake, which means they feel the impact of high lake levels and wave action on a much more intimate basis than other parts of the city that have public land barriers and other infrastructure (such as sea walls) to absorb or deflect wave impact. Residents are owed the opportunity to share their personal experiences and ideas to help inform the future of the shoreline.
Restore beach access to Juneway, Rogers, and Howard beaches and repurpose emergency revetments as breakwaters
As Lake Michigan reached historically high levels in 2019, the Department of Transportation was able to secure emergency funding from FEMA to install armor rock revetments at Juneway, Howard, and Rogers beaches. The revetments were critical in curtailing further erosion of public property and keeping park property safe. However, the installation of revetments restricted access to what had previously been beaches. Rogers Park has a unique history of being the last affordable neighborhood on the north side with access to the lakefront. Roger Park residents have enjoyed this access for generations, offering a more quiet opportunity to enjoy our greatest natural asset. As USACE studies potential solutions for Chicago’s shoreline, I ask that you look at restoring beach access and repurposing the armor rocks to act as breakwaters.
Implement sustainable native, deep-rooted vegetation on the lakefront to combat erosion
With a unique opportunity to shape the future of Chicago’s shoreline, we would like the Army Corps to explore sustainable options to combat erosion, such as planting marram grass or other native deep-rooted plants that have a track record of withstanding wave impact and mitigating the impacts of erosion. In the 49th Ward, a group of volunteers acts as stewards to the Loyola Park Sand Dunes. The natural vegetation abutting the lake proved resilient at the peak of Lake Michigan’s lake levels, with less damage at Loyola Park than at other parks to its north. In addition to providing a natural barrier to wave action, the plants help the ecosystem along Lake Michigan, allowing natural wildlife and insects to thrive.
Individuals, organizations, and groups may also submit written comments to Ms. Samantha Belcik. Comments and questions will be accepted through the end of March and can be directed via email to Ms. Belcik at ChicagoShoreline@usace.army.mil.
More on the Shoreline Study and its current status is available on the USACE website here.