On Sept. 3, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its newest report on the flood-control measures they are recommending in the wake of the April 2013 flooding, which damaged homes throughout the Des Plaines River watershed from the Wisconsin border to Riverside.
In that report, among other things, the Army Corps proposes constructing a levee between the Forest Avenue bridge and the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad bridge, running behind the properties on West Avenue in Riverside.
The report also calls for raising the existing levee along Groveland Avenue to 2 feet and raising the level of Park Place on the north to serve as a de facto levee in an area where flood waters flow around the Groveland levee in cases of extreme high water.
Of course all of these flood-mitigation measures are just recommendations. If they are to become reality, the U.S. Congress will have to approve funding. Beyond that, some “local” agency will have to share the cost of construction, since federal funding won’t be 100 percent. That could mean any agency from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to the village of Riverside.
Since it’s unlikely Riverside would be able to come up with the kind of trump needed for such a project, let’s all hope the IDNR remains in a giving mood. They were the local agency when it came time for funding the removal of the Hofmann and Fairbank dams and the regrading of Swan Pond Park.
It would appear that the recommendation to build a levee along the West Avenue properties is now a welcome proposition, after a five-year period in which the area was whacked by a near-record flood in 2008 and a record flood in 2013.
Back in August 1997 — the first Landmark published by Wednesday Journal Inc. — we reported that a strong storm caused minor flooding, nothing even approaching April’s mess.
That same issue, we wrote a story about a proposal by the village of Riverside — on its own — to build a West Avenue levee. The idea never got very far, due to land rights issues and ambivalence about the plan by West Avenue residents, who hadn’t really seen a big flood since 1987. Before that, the worst flood occurred in 1969. There was simply no cause for such a drastic measure.
But there were warning signs even then. The river rose to crests approaching major flood stage levels in February 1997 and in October 1986. Seven of the top 10 crests of the Des Plaines in Riverside have come since 1986, but four of those have come since 2008.
The other three in the top 10 were from the 1960s. The 11th-highest crest occurred all the way back in 1948.
Back in 1997, we advocated building a levee behind West Avenue and we continue to do so today. Now with the prospect of the Army Corps of Engineers doing the heavy lifting with respect to engineering and land acquisition/easements, such a solution appears realistic.