50 years after it began, the Clean Water Act’s impact still seen with the Chicago River

CHICAGO — Tuesday marks 50 years since the start of the Clean Water Act. The act helped steer dollars and projects toward the clean-up of the nation’s waterways including the historic Chicago River.

The Chicago River is now the cleanest it has been in 150 years. It has also led to more development along the riverfront.

Margaret Frisbie runs Friends of the Chicago River, a non-profit dedicated to keeping the river clean.

“There’s a ton of wildlife,” she said. “Way more than people expect, which is one of the fun surprises I think about the river.”

The recent spur in development with projects like the 78, Lincoln Yards and the expected Bally’s casino will come with some initiatives to keep the river clean and accessible to residents. All developments are required to have a 30-foot set back from the river to allow for a public riverwalk.

Cindy Roublik is with the Department of Planning and Development.

“A lot of these developments are happening in former industrial areas so we are changing the industrial uses to a mixed use development,” she said.

Over the last five years, the Planning Commission has approved 25,000 new housing units along the river and 10 million square feet of office space.

Chicago News