Harbor Permit Review Process

The Department of Buildings is responsible for the issuance of permits for construction projects in the City of Chicago, however, the Chicago Department of Transportation(CDOT) has the responsibility of approving City Harbor Permits. CDOT has the authority to regulate construction activity in and adjacent to the City of Chicago waterways and is pleased to provide the following information regarding obtaining a harbor permit.

A City Harbor Permit is needed to perform construction within 40 feet of the waterway (shoreline, riverbank, dockwall/ riverwall, beach, etc.). CDOT will assist residential and business developments with the renovation of the City's shores. The City of Chicago encourages the appropriate treatment of riverbanks to preserve and enhance the attractiveness of this great natural resource for both people and wildlife to enjoy.

CDOT permit review process is triggered by:

  • Department of Zoning Permit application
  • Office of Underground Coordination

After reviewing the project drawings and scope of work CDOT will determine what drawings need to be submitted for the issuing of a Harbor Permit and also inform the applicant as to the permits that may be required from other city, county, state and federal agencies.

CDOT will NOT issue a Harbor Permit until all permits have been obtained from all other government agencies including Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Army Corps of Engineers and United States Coast Guard.

See the Jurisdiction Chart on the left for the agency jurisdictions and responsibilities.

When are Harbor Permits required?
A City Harbor Permit is required when any work in and within 40 feet of the Base Flood Elevation of any City of Chicago waterway is being performed.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Illinois Department of Natural Resources - Office of Water Resources (IDNR/DWR) and Department of Planning and Development have established the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) for the city's waterways.

The Chicago Department of Transportation Harbor Review process begins with either a request for the Office of Underground Coordination or a Zoning permit application through the Department of Construction and Permits. The utility companies have 30 days to review the drawings and comment.

Project drawings, scope of work and owners information are sent to the Bureau of Bridges and Transit for a preliminary Review. If CDOT determines that the proposed work is not within 40 feet of the Base Flood Elevation of any Chicago waterway, then a Harbor Permit not required.

Examples of Work that Require A Harbor Permit:

  • Dockwalls (steel sheet piling, H-piles and wood lagging, concrete, etc.)
  • Buildings (foundations, walls, slabs, etc.)
  • Earth Retention Systems
  • Storm Sewer Outfalls
  • Riverwalk and landscaping
  • Repairs to existing dockwalls
  • Temporary structures
  • Bridge repair and reconstruction
  • Soil borings
  • Directional Bores and/or tunneling
  • Demolition and backfilling

Requirements for Harbor Permits
CDOT requires drawings stamped by a registered Professional Engineer and/or Structural Engineer.

The following is a list of drawings that may be required:

  • Plat of Survey
  • Existing Site Plan with all existing conditions including utilities shown
  • Proposed Site Plan
  • Limits of the proposed work
  • Locate proposed work from the right-of-way lines
  • Typical cross-sections of all proposed work
  • Elevation in Chicago City Datum (CCD) of top of riverbank, dockwall, riverwalk, landscaping, etc.
  • Elevation of water in CCD
  • Elevation of floor slabs (basement and ground floor)
  • Elevation of top and bottom of foundations (footings, caissons, h-piles, etc.)
  • Elevation of top and tip of sheet piling
  • Distance from the nearest improvement/ work to the edge of the waterway.
  • Design calculations
  • Geotechnical Investigation report

For more information, please contact Oswaldo Chaves at the City of Chicago Department of Transportation Bureau of Bridges.

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