The Summit Division of the I M Canal 1860’s to 1900’s.

     Chicago after the end of the Civil War was experiencing many of the problems facing big cities at this time.  One of the most important was preserving a clean water supply.  The city received its water from Lake Michigan.   Cribs were built away from the shoreline to establish fresh uncontaminated water supply.  Despite this measure, it was not unusual for water from the Chicago River to back up into Lake Michigan after a heavy rain fall.  At this time, the river was used as sewer to dump garbage and waste.   Consequently, the lake would be contaminated after each of these back ups. 
     The solution to this problem proposed by local authorities was to deepen the cut of the I’M canal to Lockport where there was an intersection with the Des Plaines River.  This would reverse the flow of the Chicago River to the I M Canal. Problem solved.  Not unexpectedly, there were objections from residents of downstate  Illinois and the Illinois Valley who did no want to contend with pollution from Chicago.  Surprisingly,the Illinois General Assembly gave the city the authority to complete this project in February of 1865.
     The project was completed in stages usually during the winter when the canal was usually closed.  It was ultimately completed in 1871 for approximately 3 million dollars.  The city was later partially reimbursed by the state. 
     With the ever increasing population of Chicago the canal was unable to handle the increased volume of pollution. There was recurrence of the problem of contamination of the Lake Michigan water supply. 
     In 1889, the Chicago Sanitary Commission was formed to find a solution.  It’s project was a new larger canal from the Chicago River to the Des Plaines River at Lockport.  The Canal was 28 miles.  It was named the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.  It’s construction began September, 1892.  It was completed January, 1900.  With its completion, the eastern I M Canal became obsolete and was subsequently closed to navigation permanently.

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