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Village Should Ditch Flood Survey

Heavy rains over the last few weeks have brought soggy, familiar issues to Wilmette

 over the last few weeks have brought familiar issues to Wilmette homeowners, businesses and public buildings. Flooded basements, soaked carpets, sewage backups, insurance claims and the usual dumping of raw sewage into Lake Michigan come along with the thunderstorms, prompting the Village of Wilmette to issue yet another survey of residents concerning experiences with the flooding.

All good and well, but it is striking that storms once described as 50 year (2 percent) floods (the July 22 storm was a "100-year" flood, or a flood with a 1 percent chance of occurring) have been occuring with some regularity over the last 5 years, making them more like a flood with a 100 percent chance of occuring (at least each year since I have lived in Wilmette).

I am not convinced that another survey is going to do much of anything to prevent flooding. I have given some thought to the following broad view of storm management, and welcome any suggestions from Patch Readers:

  1. Ask the MWRD to declare the capacity of the holding and sewage processing facilities in Wilmette Harbor. That is, can we process 1 inch of rain in one hour? 7 inches in one hour etc.
  2. Ask the Village to make a standard goal of street drainage on an hourly basis, at similar rates.
  3. (and most importantly) Hold the Village and MWRD accountable for maintaining an effective drainage system based on some measurable goals.

#3 above might be pretty tough.There would need to be regular maintenance, systematic reporting and (occasional) round the clock operations at the MWRD and Wilmette Public Works. But it seems irresponsible to leave the Wilmette Locks operations unstaffed during major thunderstorms, waiting for a panic to trigger sewage dumping into Lake Michigan....or to have completely plugged combined sewers not being cleaned out until AFTER they back up into Wilmette basements.

There is every reason in the modern era that we live in, to demand a basic level of clean drinking water, dry basements and flood-free streets. There is a significant downward grade from at least Ridge Avenue to Lake Michigan, making Wilmette at least capable of being dried out using drainage tile, holding facilities and the existing North Shore Canal.     

Rather than another survey, I think it is time to hold officials at our (really expensive) drainage districts responsible for keeping sewage out of our houses, out of Lake Michigan, and providing a sensible and safe response to the thunderstorms which occur in our Village.

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Max August 16, 2011 at 05:42 AM
Patch, Can we get Patch to ask Village of Wilmette officials / elected leaders to respond to the questions raised above ? It seems the Wilmette was very eager for it's residents to respond to their recent flood surveys but doesn't seem all that eager to respond to some the questions and concerns raised here. Is the Village aware of http://wilmette.patch.com ?
Andrea Hart August 16, 2011 at 12:44 PM
Max, Thanks for the great discussion. Village officials have worked with wilmette.patch.com on previous stories. I will definitely pose these questions to them to see what responses we can get and keep you posted. Thanks again for the great questions. Andrea
Andrea Hart August 17, 2011 at 07:21 PM
Stay tuned for a Q&A with Wilmette's Director of Engineering Services!
Max September 01, 2011 at 03:17 PM
"According to the newspaper, IEMA ruled 43 homes in Cook County took on more than one foot of water, including six in Niles, 10 in Des Plaines, eight in Park Ridge and two in Northfield." Who, in their right mind, would believe this ? Northfield had TWO....notice the conspicuous absence of Wilmette ! Full article here : http://wilmette.patch.com/articles/no-disaster-ruling-for-july-23-flooding-homeowners-wont-get-aid So much for surveys !
John Powers September 01, 2011 at 03:23 PM
Good point Max. Talking with an insurance underwriter, I was informed that people typically do not fill these things out accurately, as they must note flood claims when they sell their house. A noted wet basement can hinder the sale of a house.

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