Michael Padilla, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer (USACE) Chicago region, told the Herald Monday that half a million dollars had been allocated in President Biden’s 2022 budget for a Chicago shoreline study that will include a new design plan for Promontory Point.
The USACE is poised to begin the study, called the Chicago Shoreline General Reevaluation Report (GRR), in October 2021 and finish within three years, said Padilla. It is part of the Chicago Shoreline Protection Project.
Before the study can begin, however, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Chicago Park District (CPD) must match the federal funds 50/50 and a federal appropriations bill needs to be passed providing the funds for the project. In the absence of an appropriations bill, Congress can pass a continuing resolution authority, a funding stopgap; that authority would have to allow the start of the project, said Padilla, for it to proceed.
“The GRR is basically a feasibility study with a total budget of $3 million. The Corps will provide 50% of the funds and the project partners, the CDOT (Chicago Department of Transportation) and the Chicago Park District, will provide 50%,” said Padilla.
“For the GRR, the following areas have been identified for further study: Promontory Point, flooding between 67th and 73rd Streets in the vicinity of La Rabida Hospital, and the South Water Purification Plant,” continued Padilla. “However, the study is not limited to these areas but is limited to the original project boundaries of the shoreline from Wilmette, IL to the Indiana border. The study will analyze if it is in the government’s interest to expand the original Chicago Shoreline Project to include new areas for construction of storm damage reduction features.”
“Because the design of the Promontory Point segment of the federal Chicago Shoreline Project has not been finalized by the City, it will be included in the study," said Padilla. "Conceptual designs from the original shoreline planning study, and design iterations done by the City of Chicago since that time, will be re-evaluated as part of the study."
Promontory Point and Morgan Shoal are the two sections of the Chicago shoreline that weren’t completed under authorization of the 1996 Chicago Shoreline Protection Act, following an acrimonious planning process that saw community members reject a design proposed by CPD and CDOT that would have replaced much of the limestone revetment with concrete.
Community residents launched a campaign called “Save the Point,” which funded a separate engineering study showing how to preserve the limestone revetment. Subsequent conversations between the city and community stalled. The Point was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017. Local residents recently announced the revival of the Save the Point campaign.
“Changes to Promontory Point since the original study, such as its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, will also be considered," Padilla said.
He added that the study will result in a new plan for the Point that “will meet the project objective of storm damage reduction and erosion control, will comply with federal and state requirements for historic preservation, and will be acceptable to the general public and other stakeholders.”
The GRR study would be done under the conditions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires public notice and outreach, which Padilla said would begin during the first year of the project.
CPD and CDOT did not respond to a request for comment from the Herald by press time. This story will be updated with any response.