Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal reopens

September 15, 2009 at 05:42 PM

CHICAGO – The U.S. Coast Guard reopened the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal on September 12 on a case-by-case basis for boaters using vessels longer than 20 feet. For any questions or concerns about whether a boat qualifies for passage, or to receive permission to travel through the safety zone, boaters must contact VFH-FM Channel 16 or (630) 336-0296, to reach a representative of the Coast Guard who is on-site. Mariners will only be allowed through the safety zone between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day.

The waterway was closed and a safety zone was established in August between river markers 296.0 and 296.7, near Romeoville, approximately 30 miles from Chicago, to protect boaters from the newly increased operating parameters of the Electric Fish Dispersal Barrier. The barrier was constructed to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. This type of fish has a ferocious appetite and may grow to 100 pounds in weight. The Electric Fish Dispersal Barrier was initially operated at one volt per inch, but was increased to two volts per inch August 12 to repel juvenile Asian carp, or other smaller invasive species that may be identified in the future, that may require greater voltage to deter them than larger, adult fish. The safety zone was closed in August so that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard could perform safety tests on its recently increased operating parameters, including doubled voltage.

Small vessels will still be prohibited from entering the safety zone in the Sanitary & Ship Canal. These include personal watercraft, sailboats without motors, kayaks, canoes, shells or rafts, because of the risk of shock.

When passing through the safety zone, the Coast Guard suggests remaining seated and avoiding contact with the following: anything outside the vessel’s hull, any metal objects that are unnecessary for navigation and any water outside of the vessel or standing inside it. Boaters entering the canal should either closely supervise children and pets, or send them below deck, recommends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Boaters are also advised not to linger near the barrier.

Visit or call (216) 902-6020 for updates on the safety zone from the Coast Guard, or contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for information on barrier operations at (312) 846-5330.

“We’re now relieved to see the channel open to recreational boating. It’s used by many boaters at this time of year preparing for their migratory trip down south or continuing on their Great Loop journey,” said F. Ned Dikmen, chairman of the Great Lakes Boating Federation, voice to recreational boating on the Great Lakes.