Statement by Charles Shabica, Ph.D., P.G., Emeritus Professor, Northeastern Illinois University. President Shabica & Associates.
As a coastal scientist, I’ve studied marine and Great Lakes urban coasts for more than 40 years. It is my professional opinion that the Chicago lakefill plan and the limestone, step-stone revetment, exemplified by Promontory Park and designed and engineered more 85 years ago, is a bellwether for urban coasts worldwide, especially those facing sea level rise and consequent wave overtopping and flooding. Promontory Point was acknowledged for its revetment by its 2018 National Register Listing of Historic Places.
Here are some contemporary examples of other cities modeling Chicago’s early lead on its lakefront. In addition to work on the Toronto lakefront (Lake Ontario) and the Cleveland 2021 CHEERS Project (Lake Erie), the City of New York recently implemented the 2021 Coastal Resilience Plan, all modeled after the Chicago lakefill plan. And the National Parks Service restorations of historic stone sea walls and revetments, most notably at Ellis Island, is a testament that this work is timely and can be done now.
The proposal by Promontory Point Conservancy to repair, rehabilitate and maintain the Point with its original, limestone, step-stone blocks has my full personal and professional support. My only recommendation — which is in concord with the Conservancy’s — would be to replace the wooden cribs, exposed and damaged during extreme low lake levels, with steel that is inert in the alkaline water of Lake Michigan.
Here’s to true preservation at the Point!