Waukegan River (Illinois)

River Basin Characteristics

Waukegan Harbor

The Waukegan River, located in Lake County, Illinois, is a tributary to Lake Michigan with a watershed area of 12 square miles. It has two major sub-tributaries, the North and South Branches of the river. A federal navigation channel and harbor are located approximately 1,000 feet north of the mouth of the Waukegan River. This watershed is a main focus of the Waukegan lakefront redevelopment plan.

Landuse distribution of the Waukegan River watershed

The Waukegan River watershed is highly urbanized, containing only 13 percent undisturbed land. Bank erosion in this area is a direct cause of sedimentation into Lake Michigan and has also led to the failure of several hydraulic structures along the river. In addition, the lack of a natural floodplain area has limited the expansion of flow in the Waukegan River causing erosion to occur in the channel itself. Erosion in the channel brings urban contaminants and discharges, which affect the quality of the water and its sediments. Currently, few storm water detention basins exist.

Modeling Approach

In assessing the Waukegan River watershed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers selected the Stormwater Management Model (SWMM) v5.0 for the Waukegan River modeling project based on the model’s ability to analyze long-term simulations, analyze flow from urban sewer systems, track sediment delivery and movement, and monitor pollutant loadings. This model has the ability to evaluate the effects of Low Impact Development (LID) designs such as rain gardens, permeable pavement, and rain barrels on sediment delivery and stormwater runoff. SWMM v5.0 has a history of past applications in watersheds similar to the Waukegan River basin. A future phase of this project could include the development of a sediment transport model for the Waukegan River using HEC-RAS.

Now that the SWMM v5.0 model has been completed, a hands-on training workshop will be held to teach interested users how to utilize the tool during the technology transfer phase of the project and to obtain valuable user feedback on the model and how it might be further refined. This workshop has been planned for August 2011. All interested participants are asked to contact David Bucaro to register for the workshop.

Use and Applications

Example of failed hydraulic structure

This model will allow state and local planning agencies to better assess options for non-point source pollution prevention. This model also serves to advise these agencies on dredging and disposal needs, Remedial Action Plans (RAPs), and Lakewide Management Plans (LaMPs). This information is intended to help restore the watershed and reduce sedimentation to Lake Michigan. In the future this model will be used to apply a watershed approach to sediment management, support measures reducing sediments and pollutants to tributaries and reduce costs of navigation maintenance, thereby reducing the need for sediment remediation.

Project Partners

For More Information


David F. Bucaro, P.E.
Chief, Economic Formulation & Analysis Section
US Army Corps of Engineers – Chicago District
231 South LaSalle Street, Suite 1500
Chicago, IL 60604-1437
Phone: (312) 846-5583