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Outflow Task Force

After a string of incidents on the Chicago River involving human powered craft and commercial vessels the CHSC created a task force to discuss ways to identify, classify and mitigate certain high volume outflows along the Chicago river. The outflows are permitted for HVAC cooling water discharge by CDOT and the USACE. In partnership with the USACE, USCG and CDOT the team examined the specific locations subject to high volume outflows that can push kayaks and other small craft into the navigation channel. CHSC created a problem statement with three primary objectives:

  1. To identify and classify the outflows in a way that waterways users can be alert.

  2. To urge USACE and CDOT to scrutinize permits for outflows.

  3. To provide signage to mark the locations.


The team consisted of Vice President Mike McElroy, Communications chair Tom Blakely, USCG MSU Chicago Matt Zinn and Josh Vance, CDOT Ozzy Chaves, USACE Colin Smalley and Mike Walsh, HPC Sector Director John McDermott and Urban Kayaks James Morrow. A map was created to identify the locations and each one was classified based on the volume of water being discharged. The map was shared with CDOT for publication. The team visited each outflow on a CHSC member vessel with USACE to geolocate the owners of the outflows. A spreadsheet was created connecting the owners to make them aware of the hazard. It was determined by CDOT and USACE that CFM flow will need to be quantified during future permitting and that flow mitigation will be required.


As a result of the teams efforts, the most egregious outflow at State street has been approved for such mitigation in 2022. The team designed new kayak oriented warning signage that was approved by CDOT. The signs where paid for by members of the CHSC through fundraising efforts of the team. As of the Summer of 2022 the signs have been mounted at the outflow locations. This task force was a success and has been sun set as of the Spring of 2023.

Outflow Map

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