The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) quietly has been advancing a plan to build a levee around the residential area south of the Des Plaines River in Riverside Lawn, a plan not too dissimilar to one that received opposition from Riverside residents a couple of decades ago.
In March 2011, the MWRD’s board of commissioners approved preliminary engineering for the Riverside Lawn levee project and two other flood-control projects along the Lower Des Plaines River.
Earlier this spring surveyors representing the MWRD were in Riverside Lawn taking measurements and interviewing homeowners, according to two residents reached by the Landmark.
And despite claims by some Riverside officials that the plan may be off the table, a recent inquiry to the MWRD by the Landmark about the status of the project, known by the designation DPR-13, indicated that it may still be a possibility.
“Preliminary engineering for alternative DPR-13 of the Lower Des Plaines River detailed watershed plan is in progress,” wrote Allison Fore, the district’s director of public affairs, in an email to the Landmark on May 23. “MWRD engineers are planning to meet with local officials and residents in the near future to discuss this floodwall/levee project.”
Riverside Village Manager Peter Scalera last week said no one from the MWRD has reached out to him about such a meeting. Scalera said his understanding was that the project was being held up by land rights issues related to the proposed levee’s location.
“The land rights issues need to be worked out, so the MWRD is reviewing whether it was feasible to move forward,” Scalera said. “My belief was that [the levee project] was being considered seriously [by MWRD].”
According to documents on the MWRD’s website, the Riverside Lawn levee project “was developed to address the flooding risk of 39 structures” whenever the river levels reach 100-year flood stage. Since 2008, that has happened twice and the area suffered moderate flooding at least one other time in the past four years.
The MWRD has proposed a flood wall that would stretch approximately 2,400 feet with an average height of six feet and would include two pump stations “to address interior damage.”
The cost of building the levee is estimated at $9.9 million.
As proposed, the levee would not be visible along the south river bank. Instead, it would be set back in the forested area immediately adjacent to residential properties in Riverside Lawn.
Engineering drawings show the levee extending east from Joliet Avenue then jogging north for a short distance and back east until reaching the west side of Stanley Avenue. The levee then extends north to just past the end of the Stanley Avenue, back east to the east side of Gladstone Avenue and then south again to Bismark Street where it heads east to Washington Avenue and then off toward the Riverside Public Works facility and terminating finally at the Ogden Avenue bridge.
The proposal is somewhat similar to a levee that was proposed back in the 1970s, said Riverside Trustee Lonnie Sacchi.
“That item lasted about 10 years,” Sacchi recalled. “Citizens in Riverside banded together to oppose it because they were concerned it would push [flooding] over to the Riverside side.”
Others opposed the plan because they felt building the levee would destroy the wetland area in Riverside Lawn, said Sacchi. Another sticking point was that the old proposal included a lighted path on top of the berm, which concerned people living directly across the river on Riverside Road in Riverside.
“But if you compare this proposal with the 1974 drawing, it’s almost identical,” Sacchi said.