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Indiana Harbor and Canal
Dredging and Disposal Project

About the Project

The Indiana Harbor and Canal (IHC) Dredging Project is designed to dredge and dispose of contaminated sediment in the IHC in a way that is safe to human health, improves the environment, and is economically beneficial.


Location of the Indiana Harbor and Canal

The IHC is located on Lake Michigan adjacent to the city of East Chicago, Indiana. It is on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan, 4.5 miles east of the Indiana-Illinois State line and 17 miles from downtown Chicago, Illinois.

IHC construction began in 1901. Indiana Harbor is the 42nd busiest U.S. port with 15 million tons of material shipped or received each year, including iron ore, coke, gypsum, steel, cement, petroleum products and other commodities. Heavy industry in the area includes steel manufacturing, petrochemical processing, and petroleum refining.

Historic contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals put the canal under the Environmental Protection Agency's Grand Calumet River Area of Concern (AOC) — the only AOC to be listed impaired in all 14 beneficial use categories. The harbor and canal were not dredged for 40 years after 1972 because an economical, environmentally-protective alternative to open-water disposal of the sediments was not available.

Confined Disposal Facility (CDF)

A confined disposal facility (CDF) was constructed in stages from 2002–2011 to store the dredged sediment. It is located on a former refinery site on the Lake George Branch of the IHC. Learn more about the CDF and its construction history.

black and white photo of the ECI site
The ECI site (location for the CDF) was used as a petroleum refinery [Source: USACE]
aerial photo
Aerial photograph of the CDF in 2011 [Source: USACE]


Dredging is the physical removal of sediment from the bottom of a waterway. At IHC, dredging uses a mechanical bucket to pick up sediment from the bottom of the IHC and load it onto a barge for transport to the CDF. Dredging prevents contaminated sediment from washing into Lake Michigan and improves the efficiency of deep draft commercial navigation. Dredging Operations »

photo of crane, bucket, and barge
Sediment is collected from the canal and loaded onto a barge using a crane and bucket. [Source: USACE]

Project Participants

The IHC is dredged by USACE as authorized by the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1913. The CDF is maintained by USACE. Learn more about the key players »


The existing federal navigation project at the Indiana Harbor and Canal was authorized by the River and Harbor Acts of 1910 and subsequent Acts of 1913, 1919, 1922, 1925, 1930, 1932, 1935, 1937, 1960 and 1965; Water Resources Development act of 1986 and 1996; Emergency Supplemental Apportions Act dated 12 May 2005.

View the Photo Gallery and Project Timeline to learn more about the project.