The levee will offer an estimated annual savings of more than $3 million in avoided flood damage
Working together with federal leaders, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), various agencies and northwest suburban communities surrounding the Des Plaines River, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) carried forth its mission to prevent flooding and manage storm water.
Officials with the MWRD and USACE joined U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, along with state lawmakers, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Cook County Forest Preserve District and local leaders from Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights and Wheeling to officially open Levee 37.
Levee 37, also known as the Mount Prospect/Prospect Heights Levee, will protect more than 600 existing homes and dozens of businesses in Mount Prospect and Prospect Heights, Ill., from future flooding, with an estimated annual savings of more than $3 million in avoided flood damage.
The project became closer to reality after the MWRD stepped in to build a compensatory storage facility in Heritage Park in nearby Wheeling, which was needed to fill a 600-ft gap in the levee structure that could prevent additional water levels from escaping downstream. The Wheeling compensatory storage filled that gap.
"This project holds a special meaning to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago as the Heritage Park Flood Control Facility was our first major storm water construction project since the Illinois General Assembly granted us storm water management authority in 2004," said MWRD President Mariyana Spyropoulos. "It is also important to us because of the breadth of intergovernmental partnerships forged through this process. Through our relationship with the Village of Wheeling, Wheeling Park District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Heritage Park Flood Control Facility will ensure the benefits of Levee 37 could be realized. On behalf of the district, we are grateful for the opportunity to deliver these quality of life improvements to these communities."
By developing the plan to provide compensatory floodplain storage for the USACE's Levee 37 Project on the Des Plaines River, officials estimated they can protect hundreds of homes and businesses, and also provide increased stormwater detention at Heritage Park for the village of Wheeling. At Heritage Park, the MWRD, working with the Wheeling Park District, was able to provide six stormwater storage areas with a total capacity of more than 49 million gallons, as well as recreational improvements to Heritage Park, including new walkways, a pavilion by the lake, a band shell, soccer fields and a baseball complex.
Levee 37 is one of six projects authorized as part of an Upper Des Plaines River endeavor to reduce flooding along roughly 80 miles of the Des Plaines River, which flows through 33 municipalities in Cook and Lake Counties. This project and its partner project, Levee 50, are a 65/35 federal/non-federal share. All but about $100,000 of the $36 million that went into Levee 37 is federal funding, leaving most of the non-federal share for the construction of Levee 50. The levee projects include a flood warning system.
Work on Levee 37 began in spring 2009, but flooding has impacted the area for decades. In September 1986, flooding caused an estimated $35 million in damage to 10,000 dwellings and 263 business and industrial sites. More than 15,000 residents were evacuated from the flooded area and seven lives were lost.
Prior to Levee 37, flood fighting required the local communities to construct a wall of Jersey barriers, wrapped in tarp, with sandbags along the centerline of River Road. Portable pumps were required to provide interior damage. The new levee will include a pump station designed to handle interior drainage, a floodwall that reaches eight feet high in stretches and closure structures equipped with pipes that drain landside water and flap gates preventing backflow from the river.