Wetland Fragmentation: How Poorly Regulated Urban Development Has Destroyed Illinois’ Natural Flood Control
By: Caitlin Federici
The taming of the historic swamplands around Chicago fragmented and irreparably damaged the Illinois River’s natural flood control, wetlands. Every year, once the snow begins to melt and Chicago paints its river green Chicagoans know that construction season is just around the corner. Construction around the Chicago area has always been complicated. Chicago’s very existence is often understood as an engineering miracle.
This massive metropolis was constructed atop a sprawling swamp. The vast network of wetlands around the Chicago region made urban development exceptionally challenging due to soggy ground and relentless flooding events; it is also exactly what makes the Chicago area an attractive destination as a global hub. The Great Lakes connect Chicago to the Atlantic Ocean and the Illinois River watershed connects Chicago to the Mississippi River, providing easy access to trade routes. However, to make the region habitable, all that water had to be contained.