Bubbly Creek Restoration on Hold

Passage of the omnibus spending bill by Congress earlier in January authorized plans for $11.6 million in restoration work of the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River, widely known as Bubbly Creek; a critical step in plans to address years of abuse on this vital reach of the river. However, negotiations involving environmental liability protections surrounding the planned work at Bubbly Creek preclude final funding “appropriations” for the work in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Fiscal Year 2021Work Plan.

Friends of the Chicago River calls on all federal, state, and local agencies to swiftly resolve outstanding liability issues, and we will work with our partners to advocate for this critical funding in 2022 so this long overdue work can get underway. The $11.6 million authorized in the omnibus bill does clear the way for restoration work once final funding is secured and liability concerns are resolved. In addition to final federal funding, $6.2 million in funding will come from the City of Chicago, the project’s local sponsor. Restoration work at Bubbly Creek will address the impacts of combined sewer overflows, sediments, and the loss of aquatic habitat.

In 2004, Friends of the Chicago River, the City of Chicago, USACE, and other partners launched the Bubbly Creek Recovery Initiative to lay the foundation for investment in habitat functions, in-stream structure, and the planting of native plants in this reach of the Chicago River system. This project is an important next step to restoring healthy aquatic and riparian habitats at Bubbly Creek which assist urban wildlife and migratory species that are under threat from habitat loss and the increasing effects of climate change.

“Authorization of the USACE’s Bubbly Creek ecosystem restoration plan is a significant step toward restoration work at Bubbly Creek,” said Margaret Frisbie, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River. “Now we must amplify the call to resolve outstanding liability issues and to secure funding to allow the Army Corps to start work at Bubbly Creek.”