Over the objections of Maplewood Road residents who appear convinced that a flood control project proposed south of Park Place will worsen flooding in their neighborhood, Riverside trustees voted unanimously on July 19 to have their attorney work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prepare a Project Partnership Agreement.

Preparation of the Project Partnership Agreement does not obligate the village to green-light the work, but such an agreement is necessary for the Army Corps to prepare design and construction documents, laying out exactly what the project would include.

The vote on July 19 was more a pro forma step, with the village certifying that there is sufficient funding available at the local level to construct the improvements, should they be approved.

“This is not a done deal,” said Village President Ben Sells in an interview with the Landmark when asked about pushback from Maplewood Road residents. “I can certainly envision something coming up during the design and engineering phase that will cause us to say, ‘No, this isn’t going to happen.’ But we have to get there first.”

Total cost of the improvements is estimated at $7.16 million, with the federal government pledging about $4.65 million. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago has promised to pay the local share of roughly $2.5 million. 

The proposed project includes raising the Groveland Avenue levee and tying it into Park Place, which would be raised to the same height. The plan also calls for a floodgate at the Forest Avenue bridge and a new floodwall to be built along the riverbank to the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad right of way.

Those improvements, say engineers, will protect homes in the flood-prone area in the vicinity of Groveland, West, Forest and Lincoln avenues without creating additional flooding upstream of the improvements, near Maplewood Road.

But some Maplewood Road residents continue to cast doubt on the proposal, with resident Peter Schoenmann asking the village board to reject the Army Corps of Engineers’ flood modeling, saying the “consequences for signing this agreement will be dire.”

Schoenmann argues that the data the Army Corps is using for its modeling, which shows no adverse effects to those living upstream of the flood walls, is outdated and inaccurate.

However, Groveland Avenue resident Ladd Kulhanek, who has seen flooding firsthand on multiple occasions, said he couldn’t understand why Maplewood residents were concerned.

The volume of rain that falls during the worst flood events is so great, he said, that it dwarfs the volume that floods the Groveland/Lincoln area.

“I can’t believe that people believe that this small area, which is a depression in Riverside, is going to affect the trillions of gallons that come down in these rain storms,” Kulhanek said.

In voting to allow the village’s attorneys and the Army Corps of Engineers to begin working on the Project Partnership Agreement, Trustee Doug Pollock asked that information presented to the village board on July 19 by the Maplewood residents be fully vetted.

In a follow-up interview, Sells said that the residents’ claim of a discrepancy in the Army Corps’ data would be investigated.

“I don’t know if it’s true, but we’ll make sure to find out,” said Sells, who added the village’s engineering firm would serve as a check on the Army Corps.

“The only thing the board can do is rely on our experts and engineers who understand this,” Sells said. “Our engineer has no interest in carrying water for the Army Corps.”