The Chi-Cal Rivers Fund is a public-private partnership working to restore the health, vitality and accessibility of the waterways in the Chicago and Calumet region by supporting green stormwater infrastructure, habitat enhancement, and public-use improvements.
The Chicago and Calumet watersheds comprise a highly engineered system of waterways that provide many benefits to the people and wildlife of the region. They move treated wastewater away from urban centers, help to manage flood waters, provide economically important conduits for commercial shipping, tourism and recreational boating, and offer vital habitats for many resident and migratory wildlife species. Despite these services, the waterways have been degraded by many stressors. Dangerous flooding, impaired water quality, habitat degradation, and limited safe public access have significantly reduced the ecological, economic and community values of the system.
To help restore these values for the people and wildlife of the region, a team of private and public organizations has established the Chi–Cal Rivers Fund (Fund). Organizations partnering with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation on the Fund include ArcelorMittal, The Chicago Community Trust, Crown Family Philanthropies, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Joyce Foundation, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and Wrigley Company Foundation.
The geographic focus of the Fund includes the drainage areas of:
- Chicago River and tributaries in Illinois
- Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal
- Bubbly Creek
- Calumet Sag Channel
- Calumet River
- Grand Calumet River
- Little Calumet River
- Burns Ditch
With an emphasis on these waterways, the Fund will achieve its impact primarily by supporting projects through a competitive grants program focused on three goals:
- Increase stormwater storage capacity through green infrastructure
- Enhance fish and wildlife habitat
- Improve public-use opportunities
Work supported by the Fund includes:
- Green Storm Water Infrastructure: rain gardens, green roofs, cisterns, pervious surfaces, bioswales, and other green infrastructure solutions
- Habitat Enhancement: riverbank naturalization, bank stabilization, riparian buffer planting, and wetland/forest/prairie restoration
- Public-use Improvement: parklands, trails/riverwalks, public access points
By slowing, storing and filtering runoff, these actions will help reduce combined sewer overflows and discharge of contaminants and sediment to local waterways. This work will reduce property damage and health risks associated with flooding and reduce municipal costs of managing and treating stormwater. In addition, it will improve habitat for many fish, birds and other wildlife and promote safe and economically important public uses associated with the river systems of the region.
Since 2013, the Fund has awarded 15 projects that have received a total of $3.5 million in grants. Together these projects are:
- Adding more than 4.3 million gallons of stormwater storage capacity;
- Enhancing 1,258 acres of riparian, wetland and upland habitat;
- Improving 9,280 feet of instream and riparian habitat; and
- Adding or improving nearly 22 acres of new public park space