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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Report a waterway blockage

Small stream maintenance

The MWRD’s Small Stream Maintenance Program (SSMP) removes obstructions and debris that could slow natural drainage in small streams and rivers throughout Cook County. Blockages in rivers and streams can cause standing or slow water upstream and contribute to flooding. The Small Stream Maintenance Program also removes invasive plants, downed trees, low hanging branches, dense weeds, and addresses eroding stream banks. We remove thousands of yards of debris from local streams each year. 


Before and After: SSMP work on the North Branch of the Chicago River in the Miami Woods are of the Cook County Forest Preserves in Morton Grove.


Before and After: SSMP work on the Des Plaines River at Dundee Rd in Wheeling.


Debris Blockage Removal on the Des Plaines River at Dundee Rd: Before and After - Video


Skimmer boats and debris boat

Our two skimmer boats, Skim Pickens and Skimmy Dipper, patrol the Chicago River to remove trash and floating material. Our larger debris boat removes debris that could slow the flow of the river or cause a navigation hazard. Together, our skimmer boats and the debris boat remove thousands of cubic yards of trash and debris each year. These debris collection boats provide a vital community service by improving water quality and the recreational experience for thousands of people canoeing, kayaking, boating, and enjoying the waterways. 


How you can help prevent waterway blockages

You can help prevent waterway blockages and debris in rivers and streams

  • Don’t leave yard waste near streams.
  • Don’t litter! Properly dispose of trash.
  • If you live on a stream, consider landscaping with native plants and removing invasive plants such as buckthorn. Many native plants have a strong root structure that resists erosion.
  • Report waterway blockages to the MWRD