Illinois Governor Signs Flood Legislation for Cook County
Bill authorizes MWRD to acquire flood-prone properties and proceed with local storm water projects
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed House Bill 3912, which authorizes the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to acquire flood-prone properties and to proceed with local storm water projects where previously only regional projects were authorized. HB 3912 was widely supported by Cook County municipal associations, the Council of Governments and agencies with which the MWRD works to address storm water management across Cook County.
"These two new tools added to the district's capability will provide needed flood relief assistance to Cook County residents," said MWRD President Kathleen Therese Meany. "We are especially grateful to Rep. Elaine Nekritz and Sen. Daniel Biss who carried this bill forward in their respective chambers. We are also thankful to all the groups who supported this legislation."
In 2004, the MWRD assumed responsibility for storm water management in Cook County, and since then, the agency has designed and has underway more than $300 million in regional storm water projects. These projects yield more than $400 million in benefits. These projects will not address localized flooding, which generally occurs away from major waterways and to which requires different solutions. Expanding storm sewers, culvert modifications and green infrastructure projects like permeable parking lots and rain gardens are the types of solutions necessary to mitigate flooding in these areas. In other cases, there is no reasonable solution other than acquiring these properties and returning them to open space.
The MWRD will soon schedule a public study session to discuss the development of policy guidelines for the property purchase program with the Board of Commissioners. Once approved, the MWRD will accept applications through its respective communities from interested homeowners who have experienced multiple flooding events. MWRD staff will prioritize submittals and develop a priority matrix for submitted property purchases. The MWRD will then begin the process of acquiring properties, demolishing buildings and turning them over to the appropriate government agency.
After the April 2013 rain event that resulted in the third national disaster declaration in three years, the Board of Commissioners approved a Phase II storm water concept. Phase II focuses on local flooding issues. Over the past year, MWRD staff has collected shovel ready projects from the 133 communities in Cook County. In addition, project areas have been identified which need further study or design. Intergovernmental Agreements have been drafted in anticipation of the signing of this bill and will immediately be distributed to partner communities. Shovel ready projects will be advertised for bid and needed work performed. Projects needing design or study will be assigned engineering teams and start as soon as possible.