Creating Corridor of Natural Habitats Along Chicago River Could Create Jobs, Reduce Flooding and Pollution, Study Says

Sourced from the Chicago Tribune

A new report commissioned by Friends of the Chicago River says the development of an environmentally friendly “blue-green corridor” along the river system in northeastern Illinois would create $192 million in annual economic benefits, in addition to boosting wildlife, water quality and recreational opportunities.

The study, released Thursday during the river group’s annual summit, says creating an interconnected passageway of natural habitats along the Chicago River system will support more than 1,600 jobs annually while helping to reduce flooding, pollution and the urban heat island effect. This type of development, which has been implemented along waterways in cities such as Houston, Cleveland, San Antonio and Washington, also provides more chances for city residents to access the river and the adjacent land for walking, bicycling, kayaking or simply enjoying the natural habitat.

The report, written by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Fiscal and Economic Research Center, says a blue-green corridor (blue = water, green = land) along the Chicago River, its various branches and the Calumet waterways would provide a return on investment of $1.77 for every dollar spent on environmentally friendly, ecologically conscious riverbank and shoreline development.

“This is critically important, especially in urban areas, because habitat fragmentation is a real concern,” said Andy Donakowski, a policy and planning specialist with Friends of the Chicago River. “As spaces like this, urban spaces expand, you do see the paving over of previously open space. So this is a concept that’s really important, and we just wanted to emphasize why we need to preserve these areas while we can and establish further connections where it’s possible.”

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