It would prove to be a massive excavation project to cut to the depth required, much of it through bedrock. Along the way, the idea had been expanded to include a greatly improved waterway, capable of handling the big boats of the Great Lakes. The cut was 200 feet wide, 20 feet deep, and required 40 million cubic feet of excavation. Only a single lock was required -- a 34' high control structure at Lockport. The lock at Lake Michigan was added later. The canal connected to the Chicago River at Bridgeport and joined the Des Plaines River just above Joliet, a length of only twenty-eight miles, a quarter of the length of the I&M. This was because of the much greater flow of water allowed the rivers below Joliet to be made navigable.

Plans were completed in 1889,47 and work was begun with much celebration on "Shovel Day," September, 3, 1892.48  The concept of reversing a river - making it run uphill was compared to Hercules cleaning of the Augean Stables. It caught the imagination of everyone and drew worldwide attention. Generally the reaction was favorable. Even downstate communities such as Joliet and Ottawa, Illinois looked forward to the new canal. After years of living with the sluggish flow of sewage in the I&M Canal, the Sanitary Canal was to bring a great improvement in water quality.

Only St Louis resisted. Day after day, negative articles and critical editorials filled that city's local newspapers, arguing against "this filthy nuisance.".

"Case for Uncle Sam to Settle"
Jan 1900 St. Louis Globe Democrat

"Chicago's Bluff"
Jan 1900 St. Louis Globe Democrat


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