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Chicago River

Chicago River


Openlands and Friends of the Chicago River commissioned a study, Our Liquid Asset: The Economic Benefits of a Clean Chicago River, released in May 2013. The study finds that a clean Chicago River has the potential to be a multi-billion dollar economic driver for Chicago and the surrounding region.

Major Findings 

  • A clean, accessible Chicago River is good for our economy: Investing in clean water technologies like the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP), sewage effluent disinfection, green infrastructure, public parks, and other riverfront amenities generates business income, individual income, tax revenue, and jobs.
  • Each dollar invested provides a 70% return on investment through business revenue, tax revenue, and income. Investing in the Chicago River can create 52,400 construction jobs and 846 permanent operations and maintenance jobs:  Completed, planned, and proposed construction results in nearly $8 billion in business revenue, including $244 million in tax revenue, $4 billion in income and related construction jobs. Operations and maintenance will generate $130 million in business revenues, which also includes $6 million in taxes, $81 million in income and associated jobs, all of which will continue to accumulate annually.
  • Finishing the Tunnel and Reservoir Plan sooner will reduce flood damage faster: Since the first TARP reservoir went on line in 1998, regionally we have avoided $250 million in flood damage. Finishing the construction of the Thornton and McCook reservoirs will provide an additional savings of $130 million per year.
  • Removing stormwater through green infrastructure saves money: Urbandevelopment and engineering decisions often direct clean rain water into pipes directed to our sewage treatment plants where we pay for its treatment. Executing a regional green infrastructure plan would reduce the load.
  • New parks and public amenities increase property value and quality of life: The City of Chicago and Chicago Park District have invested millions in land acquisition, improvement, and access which has already brought thousands of people to the river. Those investments, coupled with future planned projects, will provide more and better public access, new jobs and associated revenues, and an important tourist attraction with the emerging Chicago Riverwalk.
  • People want the Chicago River to be part of their lives: Ninety-five percent of stakeholders surveyed indicated that the river has a positive effect on their quality of life, including important characteristics such as the quality of available water-based recreation opportunities and the scenic value of the river as a real estate amenity. This demonstrates that improvements to the Chicago River can provide significant value to people in addition to supporting jobs, business revenues, incomes and tax revenues.
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