It’s been a while – actually we can quantify how long, it’s been more than two years – since representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have given a public update on just what’s going on with a proposed floodwall to protect properties along the Des Plaines River between Park Place and the BNSF Railroad line.
On March 2, elected officials got something of an eye-opener. The Riverside project now has a new Army Corps team overseeing it, and their familiarity with everything village officials and residents have been through regarding this project over the past five years appeared lacking.
To be fair, it’s a complicated project with a number of moving parts. For one, Riverside is a National Historic Landmark for its landscape design and local officials want to make sure any new floodwall would not jeopardize that status.
As far back as December 2020, Riverside officials took pains to ensure the Army Corps would engage with state preservation officials to review the plans and get their signoff. With the help of the village’s engineer and the Riverside Historical Preservation Commission, elected officials also were able to come up with a design they believed the public would accept.
On March 2, the Army Corps said it had not yet done any of that preservation review. As for the local efforts at making the wall aesthetically acceptable, the Army Corps basically said they were going with the cheapest option and made no promises that any aesthetic improvements would be funded above already established levels.
It was also a bit galling to find out that there appear to be pretty detailed engineering plans showing a proposed alignment for the floodwall and locations for pump stations, plans that would more clearly show just how a floodwall would impact the backyards of single-family properties along West Avenue.
None of those plans had previously been disclosed publicly and only were revealed in response to Trustee Edward Hannon’s statement that information given to elected officials in advance of the March 2 meeting was woefully inadequate.
The Landmark has requested these plans – now entered into the public realm via the Army Corps at a village board meeting. We haven’t received them, but we argue the public is now entitled to them. We’ll see.
In the meantime, the Army Corps says they’re sending out a surveyor in early April to run the proposed alignment and give the village an opportunity to string a line along that path to get a sense of how high the floodwall would be as it winds up the riverbank. Of course, the Army Corps did this in 2021, too, and nothing ever came of it.
The upshot of the March 2 getting-to-know-you session is that Riverside residents and officials appear to have more questions than answers after five years of wrangling over this floodwall.