John Thompson provides a historical account of the development process, sectoral conflicts, and outcomes related to major alterations of land and water relationships, as well as habit changes, caused in the valley downstream from Peoria by the large-scale reclamations for agriculture and the post-1900 intrusion of large volumes of waste water from the Sanitary and Ship Canal of Chicago.
Thompson examines the history of the land drainage movement and the inevitable environmental changes caused by the intensification of urban and rural land use in the Midwest between sixty and one hundred years ago. He shows how institutions of land drainage were organized and operated and how the nascent drainage engineering and contracting sectors functioned. Focusing on the lower valley, Thompson also deals with drainage as it affects the nation, the Midwest, Chicago, and downstate Illinois.
Thompson is the first to address the array of interrelated physical, economic, and political circumstances caused by the development of competing and incompatible uses for the waters and the floodplain of the Illinois River when large-scale land reclamation and great volumes of water from Lake Michigan and Chicago changed land and water relationships, destroyed a major riverine fishing industry, and severely damaged renowned waterfowl hunting grounds.