By Bob Uphues
A representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to be back in front of the Riverside Village Board later this month to provide an update on a proposed floodwall along the Des Plaines River from Park Place south to the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad embankment.
Part of that update also is likely to include visual examples of what just such a floodwall would look like to residents of West Avenue, who would have to look at such a structure every day.
"We have a couple of different alternatives, and there may be more depending on comments we get," said Jeff Zuercher, the floodwall project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers. "We want to be minimizing the impact to people's property and also develop a plan to help as many people as possible."
Zuercher is tentatively scheduled to appear before the village board at their meeting scheduled for Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. at the Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road, said Village Manager Jessica Frances.
Part of the reason for the invitation, Frances said, was to acquaint him with newer members of the village board, who were elected in April and not part of prior board discussions about the proposed floodwall.
"The board has changed, so we want to introduce him to the new board on this project and have him present new information they may have," Frances said, adding the village board will take no action on the floodwall project at the meeting.
The roughly $7.16 million project would entail raising the Groveland Avenue levee and tying it into a floodwall to be constructed in the right of way along the north edge of Park Place. The plan also calls for a floodgate at the Forest Avenue bridge and a new floodwall to be built south of Forest Avenue along the riverbank to the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad right of way.
The Army Corps of Engineers would fund 65 percent of the project's cost, with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago providing $2.5 million as a local match.
The wall and gate would better protect properties on Groveland, Lincoln and West avenues from experiencing the type of flooding the area experienced in 2008 and 2013.
Zuercher and seven other Army Corps engineers joined Riverside Fire Chief Matthew Buckley, inspecting properties along West Avenue on Oct. 31 as the federal agency continues its due diligence as part of the design phase, which the Army Corps kicked off early this year.
Buckley obtained permission from homeowners so that the engineers could walk the proposed floodwall site behind the homes on West Avenue, take photos and talk to homeowners.
"The Army Corps accepted a lot of comment from residents, and they're seeing firsthand what they have to deal with," Buckley said. "I think they now have some guidance on what they can do and how to go about it."
Once the design phase reaches the 50-percent mark, the Army Corps will return to the village board for direction on either moving ahead with the project or abandoning it. Zuercher said he expects that it'll probably be sometime in early 2020 before that decision point is reached.
If the village board determines the project should move forward at that time, only then will the Army Corps of Engineers begin the process of acquiring the property it needs for the floodwall construction, according to Zuercher.
He said that the Army Corps needs to acquire not only the land the wall itself will occupy, but 15 feet on either side of the wall. The Army Corps likely will also have to obtain construction easements, and compensate the owners for that access.
As far as actual construction, if the village decides to move forward, work likely wouldn't start until 2021 at the earliest.
"We'll need at least one year for the real estate acquisition," Zuercher said. "That process can be quite lengthy."