Can the Chicago River be saved? – Salon.com

Excerpt from Salon on Chicago river: More than a century ago in this exact spot, human ingenuity shaped nature to its will, smashing through the earthen barrier that separated the Mississippi River drainage area from the vast freshwater reservoir of the Great Lakes, stitching together the commercial energies and distinct ecosystems of the North American continent. The consequences of that decision are still playing out today in a metropolis where more than seven million people draw their drinking water from Lake Michigan — and where those same people pump their sewage back into the river. Myriad threats, from water pollution to flooding and invasive species, have made the question of what to do about the Chicago River one of the most important questions facing the city. And simply by asking it, Chicagoans are acknowledging a basic existential struggle. That struggle is between two competing visions. One is remedial and pragmatic, the province of engineers and bureaucrats. In their eyes, the river can and should be cleaned up only to the point where it can operate as a safe, functional waterway that exists to meet the demands placed on it by commerce, flood control, and the dispersal of wastewater. In the alternate vision, however, the river meets all of these demands — and more. Its proponents seek nothing less than to turn the Chicago River into a civic treasure, its newly cleaned banks lined with parks and homes and restored ecosystems, its very presence a clear and shimmering symbol of a great city built on making, trading, connecting: a symbol of American history’s inexorable flow toward progress. And in the bargain, they seek to make the river a living — and flourishing — example of environmental innovation and ecological stewardship, one that generations of Chicagoans will cherish. http://www.salon.com/2013/02/24/cry_us_a_river_partner/

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