Support Deauthorizing the North Branch Channel

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Green stripes show the area we are trying to deauthorize

Let's free the North Branch Channel!

Currently the north branch channel of the Chicago River is designated a federal navigable waterway. The standards are based off outdated legislation from the 1890’s, when the channel was a bustling center for river commerce. The current situation is drastically different, and the legacy of this status is limiting the channels rebirth into an ecological sanctuary.

We are looking for congress to deauthorize this section of the river, from the Cherry street bridge on the north to 100 yards south of the Halsted St. Bridge.

What would deautherazation do?

Deauthorazation would remove the USACE from the responsibility to maintain navigability in the channel. This would give the Wild Mile an opportunity to build robust habitat installations such as; floating wetland Islands, bird outposts, and other installations within the navigable channel.

Who would regulate this channel?

Currently our river is overseen by a variety of federal, state and local organizations such as the IDNR, IEPA, EPA, CDoT and U.S. Coast guard. Removing this designation would not change their ability to oversee this stretch of water.

Why is this designation outdated?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is tasked with maintaining the navigability of our commercial waterways. The current designation does not reflect the reality of the river today because:

  1. It is shallow; only 5' deep at some points. It hasn’t been dredged in decades, and currently there are no plans to dredge in the future.

  2. Movable bridges, which formally could allow ships to pass through the channel, have been sealed. Leaving low height clearance and limiting types of boats which can move through the channel.

  3. There is an alternate route on the west side of Goose Island which is currently the main route commercial vessels move through the Chicago River.

  4. The obstructions listed in the 1896 survey, which dictates how far one can encroach in the river, are no longer relevant. The channel has evolved since that point in time and the legislation is no longer accurate

  5. Because of these obstructions commercial boats cannot use the channel

Why has the north branch channel not been deauthorized sooner?

In the past, this section of the river remained relatively untouched. There was no one who would benefit from deauthorazation, and therefore no one needed to move this issue forward. With the recent installations of floating gardens by Urban Rivers, and the support of the Wild Mile from the community, there became a clear need to update the laws to reflect the current reality of this channels use and allow it to blossom into one of the most innovative urban wildlife sanctuaries in the world.

Will boats still be able to use the channel?

Yes, currently some recreational boaters tour this channel. This would not change.  

What can I do to help!

With your support we can transform the north branch canal into something truly inspirational. Please fill out the survey above.