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Yes, and Skimmy Dipper too! Those are the two new boats christened by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) on Tuesday that will collect floating debris and trash on the Chicago Area Waterways. When big rainstorms fill sewers past their capacity to hold all the water, excess stormwater carrying dirt, debris, pet poop and worse from the streets overflows directly into Chicago waterways. Not good (for people or fish). Now Skimmy Dipper and Skim Pickens will skim trash from the river’s surface and will be on call to gather debris from specific overflow sites during storms, helping to improve the appearance and water quality of Chicago waterways. The MWRD had invited members of the public to submit names for the new boats and Josh Ellis of the Metropolitan Planning Council (who submitted dozens of nominees) was the winner. Please call (800) 332-3867 if you see floating trash or file a report online.
About 18 months ago, the Chicago Tribune invited readers to submit their ideas for the ‘next’ Plan of Chicago, building on the visionary plan drafted by Daniel Burnham in 1909. Responding to the challenge, I sent an essay suggesting that Chicago's future — its economy and ecology both — is wedded to water, that its proximity to and abundance of freshwater is a strategic and economic asset to be leveraged. The Tribune selected my idea as one of a dozen to feature and last week published an update on what’s happened since.