Spot Check: Strand Takes a Stand

AWARENESS, CHECK. EXPLORATION, CHECK. STRAND FINALLY TAKES A STAND.

Tuesday, April 12th, after months of analysis, four open houses, a gazillion comment cards, Strand Associates unveiled its long-awaited Preliminary Vision – the third phase in its “watershed based strategy” for flood relief in Western and Southwestern Winnetka. The purpose: Gain further community input. Next: Revise, redraft, and report to Village Council.

 WESTWARD HO – WESTWARD HOW?

Move water west. Cleanse it. Put it to work. Use gravity. It’s all about “acre-feet” – the amount of water that covers an acre of land, one foot deep. A 100-year flood event – Strand’s charge – typically delivers 150 acre feet. Strand’s proposal checks off 75% of that 150 by restoring the Cook County Forest Preserve south of Willow back to its original wetland. It checks off another 10-12% with a second wetlands restoration in the southern part of Crow Island Woods. It deals with the rest by relocating the Duke Childs Lacrosse fields to the top of the landfill, building underground storage in the field between Skokie School and Washburn, and possibly adding underground storage under Duke Childs Baseball field and the Par 3 golf course. For good measure, it includes voluntary private rain gardens and other homeowner initiatives.

 END OF DISCUSSION? NOTHING IS OFF THE TABLE

Strand calls it a “design balancing act.” Best case, but not the only case. Wants to work with residents to fine-tune.

PROS, CONS AND CASH

Pros – according to Strand, the “best case”

  • Eliminates pumps. They’re expensive, they fail, and they have to go on somebody’s property.
  • Creates wetlands – restoring parts of Southwest Winnetka to its natural state.
  • Combines grey and green infrastructure.
  • Moves water in the direction it was meant to go using existing roadways when it can. 

So far, hurdles include:

  • Forest Preserve – Cook County will work with us only after all other solutions are maximized, and if only clean water enters the Preserve.
  • Crow Island Woods – Residents fear the loss of the Log House, Tribal Council Circle and Picnic Shelter which Strand says are not in it plans; the loss of mature trees which Strand says are unhealthy and plans to address with reforestation; and standing and polluted water which Strand says wetlands plantings will cleanse.

Sticker shock or not, Strand’s bottom line right now is $57,700,000 (pg 43). Strand says it’s “more comprehensive than is normally figured at this stage.” Financing is the Village Council’s job. Other options? Sure, but more trade-offs and more money. 

 MAKE IT RIGHT – THEN MAKE IT BETTER

The Village Council knows it has to get this one right. It hired Strand because of its street cred for community engagement and portfolio of grey/green solutions. It wants to hear from you. The feedback you give Strand over the next several weeks will be used in its final report to Village Council.  The time to get involved is now.