Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The River

This past Saturday Mayor Daley released the Chicago River Agenda. Cathy has put a ton of work and vision into this and biased as I obviously am I can't recommend highly enough that you give it your attention.

No matter what you might ultimately think of Daley and his political priorities I know I’d be hard pressed to disprove his dedication to improving the natural environment of Chicago while in the process setting an exciting precedent for large urban cities throughout the US. Not to resort to a journalistic cliché, but Daley clearly seems to be eying his legacy, sizing up his contributions to the city and deciding, much to our benefit and his good credit, that ecological sustainability and the greening of Chicago’s infrastructure will continue to play a prominent role in defining it. Yes, glaring ecoproblems continue to exist, but it’s hard to avoid evidence of the progress he’s made.

What makes this even more exciting is the role Cathy gets to play in improving, protecting, balancing and enhancing the Chicago River aspects of this vision. That is to say:

-Improving water quality
-Protecting nature and wildlife in the city
-Balancing river uses
-Enhancing neighborhood and community life

You can read more about these goals in the agenda. Pay particular attention to page 11. It’s the one on Combined Sewer Overflows. It begins, “Chicago, like many older cities, has a combined sewer system that carries sewage and strormwater in the same pipes. During heavy rains, the system can become full and cause a mixture of stormwater and sewage to overflow into the river.” Yuck. The antiquated sewer system overflows ‘cause otherwise all that excess water would be appearing in your basement and ruining your excellent comic book collection.

Cathy and I have had dinner conversations about CSO’s. You bet we used the acronym! Over home cooked meals we imagined untreated or raw effluent, otherwise known as the collective intestinal outpouring of our cities near 3 million occupants odiously mixed with stormwater, dumping (pun intended!) into the river in impressive quantities. No doubt for some such talk would dampen a candlelit mood and the gentle coaxing of Marvin Gaye’s voice beckoning through the speakers. But it’s fascinating stuff, and Cathy knows her shit (pun intended again!) and hearing about how the city is tackling this challenge, among others, is one of the joys of having Cathy as an ally.

So, get out and give the Chicago River some much needed love. There are still a couple days left in the Chicago River Fishing Derby where all you gotta do is show up and be given all the particulars you need to fish in the loop. I hope someday we'll be able to fry up our catches and have them for lunch. And on Friday Cathy and I will be checking out the Chicago International Rowing Regatta where I'll be carefully judging the rallying merits of each boats coxswain. And next Sunday there's the Chicago Flatwater Classic which concludes at Ping Tom Memorial Park where I'll be haphazardly DJ'ing summery grooves on behalf of Friends of The Chicago River for the better part of the afternoon.

Update: I mistakingly linked the Chicago River Agenda to the Chicago Water Agenda from 2003. It's fixed now. Though, I gotta admit, the City's web page could really use some help.

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