A proposal to build an L-shaped flood wall in Riverside along Park Place from Woodside Road and then south along the east bank of the Des Plaines River to the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad bridge appears stuck in neutral, with village officials unsure when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will move it ahead.
Village Manager Jessica Frances informed elected officials that there was no firm timeline for when the Army Corps of Engineers will complete surveys to determine the exact location and height of the floodwall behind homes along West Avenue.
“I haven’t received a definitive date about the additional surveying,” Frances told trustees during an update on the project at the village board’s July 15 meeting. “They’re backlogged on some of their projects, so that dictates when their surveyors are available.”
However, Frances said that she wanted to minimize disruption for West Avenue residents and has asked the Army Corps to ensure they demonstrate both the location and height of the proposed floodwall when they complete the survey, so both residents and officials have a clear picture of what they’re facing.
That additional surveying work must be complete before the Army Corps submits the proposed floodwall plan to the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office for review.
Any plan would also be reviewed by the National Park Service and get additional feedback from the Riverside Preservation Commission, to ensure any floodwall would not jeopardize the village’s National Historic Landmark designation.
Last December, when the village board gave the Army Corps of Engineers the go-ahead to commence the design phase of the floodwall, the alignment of the floodwall, especially as it pertained to West Avenue, was to have been determined by spring 2021.
But, concerns over the look of the floodwall and the impact it might have on the village’s national landmark designation prompted the village to enlist its engineering firm to provide design options that would serve as the basis for further input.
The Riverside Preservation Commission and Landscape Advisory Commission provided that input in April, with the Preservation Commission submitting their feedback as a formal document in June.
The result of that feedback was a design option from the village’s engineering firm presented as a computer rendering to the village board July 15. It shows large boulders at the river’s edge giving way to landscaped terraces that stair-step up to a rusticated concrete floodwall.
“I’m glad to see that,” said Riverside Preservation Commission Chairman Charles Pipal, who said incorporating plant material and terracing were suggested by the commission. “I’m glad to see they were responsive.”
Trustee Edward Hannon said he would like to know how much maintenance is necessary to care for a terraced, plated floodwall after high water events, but generally said he supported the latest design option.
“I’m very happy with the collaboration and that [the] Preservation [Commission] was able to give us thoughts and positive suggestions,” Hannon said. “And, quite frankly, this picture is much more impressive than where we started.
What remains to be seen, however, is who will be responsible for paying for design elements such as planted terraces to soften the view of the wall. It’s possible the village of Riverside will be asked to shoulder the cost, which could be financially impossible.
The roughly $7.2 million floodwall project is being funded by the federal government and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which means if the village wants extras, they’ll need to pay for them.