Not long after new 7th District State Rep. Chris Welch crafted a bill (HB1049) to make the Municipal Water Reclamation District liable to pay out for damage caused by Proviso area flooding, members of the MWRD requested a meeting with regional leaders.
If they wanted to talk about flooding, they couldn’t have picked a better date than Monday, April 22, four days after the Thursday downpour that soaked the near-west suburbs with 6 to 8 inches of rain.
Fifty-two village representatives showed up, some of them emotional. Welch’s own district office in Hillside was “wiped out” by flooding, he said.
Welch said the group, including Forest Park Public Works Director John Doss, had a discussion of the flooding problems in Westchester, Bellwood, Broadview, Hillside, River Forest, Forest Park, Riverside, Harwood Heights, Maywood, Northlake, Melrose Park, La Grange Park and Norridge. A representative from Sen. Mark Kirk’s office also attended, Welch said.
“That’s how important this is,” Welch said. “It will take federal funding, state funding, local funding. The separate taxing bodies have to come up with a solution for this problem and pay for it.”
MWRD officials told the group the flooding has increased as regional development has grown to the north and west of the area, Welch said.
“There’s been growth all over the communities and that’s what this has led to,” Welch said. “Where does that water and sewage go? Into the existing water and sewage lines. So we have more need for places for that water to be pumped to.”
The group of mayors and public works directors got an update on the Deep Tunnel project.
“The combined sewer area of Forest Park will be tributary to McCook Reservoir, the first phase of which is scheduled to be operational by 2017,” said Dan Wendt, MWRD spokesman.
The group also heard about a proposed plan to construct a flood control reservoir at the Westchester Woods Forest Preserve located east of LaGrange Road along Cermak Road.
Another possible project for areas further west is the Addison Creek Reservoir and Conveyance Improvements Project under study by the MWRD. The project would widen Addison Creek and Salt Creek, according to the MWRD website. Welch said the project is undergoing a feasibility study, but if it was doable, the next phase would be financing and building a reservoir and improved water channels. The extra water storage would provide benefits to Northlake, Stone Park, Melrose Park, Bellwood and Westchester, Wendt said.
Welch said the best solutions would be collaborative efforts between municipalities, even if they took years.
“It’s obviously not any comfort to people who are suffering from floods now, but it’s a long-term solution,” Welch said.
Doss said the meeting was productive.
“There were upset mayors and directors there. They went around the room voicing their concerns to about 10 members of MWRD.”
“[In Forest Park] we have the cemeteries buffering us. But other communities got it much worse,” Doss said.
Welch also co-sponsored HB 1551, which would allow MWRD to issue double-barreled bonds to finance its Local Government Assistance Program, according to a press release sent Monday. These bonds are backed by both a taxing body (in this case MWRD) and a, second, guaranteed source of tax income. Welch did not specify what that second source would be.
As for HB 1049, Welch said it did not come to the House floor this legislative season and was sent back to the Rules Committee.
“It’s a bill meant to spur action,” he said. “We would all rather have MWRD spend resources coming up with resources for infrastructure and solutions rather than spend money on lawsuits and litigation.”