After nearly four years of studying flooding patterns and the sewer system in Niles, the village took a huge step forward Tuesday in bringing relief to flood-prone areas.
At its June meeting, the village board voted to go ahead with flood-prevention projects that will require almost $15 million. The vote, a major expenditure for the village, followed months of presentations on the issue and an open house for residents.
"This is going to improve the village as a whole. You're going to have increased property values...and the anxiety level should go down for everyone," said Assistant Village Manager Steve Vinezeano, who has helped coordinate stormwater efforts.
"We won't be known as a flood town when this is all over."
Two-pronged approach to flood relief
The bulk of the money, $14,610,000 will fund infrastructure improvements that will alleviate flooding in the village's most severely flood-prone areas. They're called Tier 1 projects, as they are intended to fix the worst areas. They will be built probably starting in 2013, with construction continuing for six to 10 years.
After that, additional infrastructure improvements, called Tier 2, will be built in a 10 to 20-year period after that, according to village documents. The board has not yet funded Tier 2 work.
The second part of the flood-relief approach is a grant program called the Flood Control Assistance Program, to which the village is committing $300,000. Residents who need overhead sewers, a check valve or similar improvements to prevent flooding in their homes can apply to the village for a grant, and the village will share the cost with them 50-50, up to a maximum of $4,000. There must be proof that the home has flooded in the past, and the homeowner must meet other eligibility requirements. The village will provide more information about this in its fall Focus On Niles newsletter.
While the infrastructure improvements will help many residents whose homes have flooded in the past, the 50-50 grants will be a method to help isolated homes, i.e. those where neighboring homes do not flood.
"You can’t build half a mile of pipe to serve one house, when (such a) project would cost 10 times the value of the house," said Jeff Wickencamp, an engineer with Hey and Associates who has studied detailed Niles flooding maps for many months. "That’s where the cost share really comes into play."
Gathered detailed street flooding patterns
Vinezeano and Wickencamp spoke at a Friday press conference called by Mayor Robert Callero, who praised them and Niles Trustee Joe LoVerde, who chairs the village's Stormwater Commission, for spending years going over Niles flooding patterns and its sewer system, and doing original research to identify problems and solutions.
"We have information on modeling that no one has ever had," Callero said.
Callero said he became mayor in August 2008, and a severe storm which caused very bad flooding in the village hit in early September. In October, he established the stormwater commission, whose extensive study resulted in the Stormwater Relief Program, which trustees approved last week.
Three hard-hit areas will see relief
While residents may see a few smaller projects of the program completed in 2012, more will be apparent in 2013 or later when construction starts on the Tier One projects. These include, according to the Stormwater Relief Program Report:
- The Cleveland relief sewer, at a cost of $6.7 million. A new sewer will be constructed starting near Oketo Avenue and Main Street, flowing south to Monroe Street and east to Harlem and then onto Cleveland, flowing eastward into the Cook Couny Forest Preserves. It would bring the most flood-prevention benefit (by reducing surface water) to the area bounded by Main Street on the north, Harlem Avenue on the east, Monroe Street on the south and Oketo Avenue on the west.
- The Lee Street relief sewer and storage, at a cost of $4.8 million. This project upgrades existing sewer lines to help prevent flooding during heavier storms. It also includes constructing a basin at Oak Park, at the corner of Lee Street and Ottawa Avenue, as well as a basin at Milwaukee Avenue and Main Street, on Maryhill Cemetery property, for storage during these heavier storms.
- The West Side storage basins, at a cost of $3.06 million. This will help prevent flooding near Greenwood Avenue. It involves constructing new sewer line and two water-collection basins: one at Greenwood Park, on the east side of Greenwood Avenue near Bruce, and the other on Our Lady of Ransom Church property at Normal and Lincoln. (The church's address is 8300 N. Greenwood.)
When the construction of Tier One items is complete, it's projected to reduce overland flooding in Niles by 50 percent, according to the Stormwater Commission report.
Members of the Stormwater Commission, who have met monthly for about three and a half years, include LoVerde (the chair), Callero, Scott Jochim, Fred Kudert, Mousa Nazzal, Charles Ostman, Tom Polcyn, George Van Geem, Steven Vinezeano, Andrew Vitale and Richard Wlodarski.