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Chicago River Flow Re-Reversed To Alleviate Flooding

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 18, 2013 8:20PM

The North Branch of the Chicago River flooded at Kimball Avenue. Photo Credit: Joshua Mellin

The City of Chicago “re-reversed” the flow of water from the Chicago River into Lake Michigan to help alleviate flooding to homes and streets located near the river’s North branch.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District opened three locks to allow river water, which contains sewage, into Lake Michigan because the city’s four tunnels, which can hold 2.3 billion gallons of water, were full. Known as the Deep Tunnel project, it is only one part of a massive system intended to divert stormwater overflows away from the lake and to a sewage treatment plant to be cleaned before returning to the system.

Ald. Dick Mell (33rd) notified his constituents of the move in an email alert, DNAInfo Chicago reports. Ald. Marge Laurino (39th) told residents in her ward cars that parked on streets near the river were being towed to a Salvation Army Parking Lot, and the streets are being sandbagged.

Civil engineers originally reversed the flow of the Chicago River after an 1885 flood threatened the city’s water supply. The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was completed in 1900, connecting the Great Lakes and Mississippi River drainage systems and, using locks on the south branch of the Chicago River, diverted the flow of sewage tainted river water away from Lake Michigan. The engineers who worked on that project later dug the Panama Canal and, in 1999, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was named a “Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.