Spot Check: Stormwater. Cook County's In the Boat. Are You?

It took almost two years, but finally last Thursday, as the skies darkened, the North Shore braced, and the media relentlessly texted and tweeted flood warnings, the Cook County Board gave a unanimous thumbs up to aMemorandum of Understanding, green-lighting what will now be known as the "Stormwater Management Wetlands Project,” and ushering in the first day of the end of our water-logged lives.

How many ways can you say, "win-win?"

They get: a totally restored wetlands with a few perks thrown in. We get: a place to put our water...and a totally restored wetlands with a recreation destination thrown in.

If all goes to plan.

MOU. Three Little Letters. One Big Step

A deal? Not exactly. More like a gentleman's agreement, but with a "high degree of certainty that the license agreement necessary for the project will ultimately be approved by the FPDCC Board of Commissioners." 

That "license agreement" thing? Intergovernmental Licensing Agreement, or IGA - puts the period on our partnership with the Cook County Forest Preserve. The handshake. The intergovernmental kumbaya.

The Plan for the Plan?

Getting to the IGA will be a new kind of interesting.

As soon as the VC gives Manager Bahan the go-ahead, Strand will nail down the technical specs creating enough drainage to make Mosquito Abatement’s day and encouraging the kind of positive environmental impact advocacy groups (AKA Open Lands and Friends of the Forest Preserves) dream of.

A recent and major addition to the conditions says we've got to get our upstream ducks in a row before the ink dries on the IGA, so next it's bye-bye Strand's elegant staged rollout, hello multitasking. Fast-tracked. Watch for one-on-ones with the Park District, District 36, and New Trier, Strand for "budget implications," and the VC for how-we're going-to-pay-for-thats. Pretty much in that order.

Finally, one more round with the Cook County Board, back to Strand for final engineering drawings, then out the door for bids. Exhale.

Dateline: TBD. "As much time as it takes to get it right."

In Case You Missed It...

July 2011 got the party started. 6.61 inches of rain in less than 7 hours. Flash flooding. Kids in kayaks. Curb trash. A plan to dump our water into Lake Michigan via an 8-foot diameter tunnel was working its way through the process when the pricetag and environmental concerns landed it on the spring ballot.

The residents said "no thank you," to which then-President Greable said “non-binding” and plopped it dead center into the Village's first Stormwater Master Plan. The Village sold $16.5MM in bonds and created the Stormwater Utility to pay for it. Eventually, the VC declared itself guilty of tunnel vision, shelved the tunnel, and set its sights on moving the water west.

Enter, Strand and Associates with its non-tunnel, non-pump best practices for a 100-year rain event.  After reviewing all $57,717,000 of Strand's recs, the VC decided “the water has to have someplace to go first…” and sent then-Trustee Rintz to negotiate with the Cook County Forest Preserve. 

One-Offing Like Crazy

If it seems like the Village has gone all Winnetka Music Festival, Downtown Master Plan, and Dwyer Park reno, it's also been honey-doing the Stormwater Master Plan, giving some neighborhoods some relief:

  •  Ash Street Pump Station to reduce draw-down times and flooding the the Ash/Hibbard neighborhood.
  • Spruce Outlet (Lloyd) to reduce flooding from Maple Street south to Spruce Street.
  • Spruce Outlet (Tower) to reduce flooding along Spruce Street east to Lake Michigan, and along Tower east of Old Green Bay Road.
  • Winnetka Avenue Pump Station to drain SW Winnetka more effectively.
  • Greenwood/Forest Glen storm sewer system to relieve overland flooding and drain NW Winnetka more effectively.
  • Boal Parkway Improvements and pump station to help relieve ponding.
  • Sewer lining and manhole lining to make the existing stormwater system less “leaky.”
  • Reinstatement of incentives for residential backflow prevention and overhead sewers. 
  • Lincoln Avenue parking lot permeable pavers to address water quality and flooding in parts of north Lincoln Avenue.

Get in the Boat 

This is not just a southwestern Winnetka problem. Think: kids to school, commuters to the Edens, nannies to Mariano's, and everybody to Soccer Saturday. It's that kind of "we're in this together." There is no drawing board. There is no going back. The VC wants you to reeaally, reeaally want this. The Forest Preserve Board will be watching.

  •  Read Up – two years of work and every page shows it. Trust us. You will want to know what's in it.
  • Show Up – Tuesday, August 1st, 7:30, Village Hall. 
  • Speak Up – Especially if you've pumped, bailed, or put Stanley Steamer on speed dial. 
  • Check In – If you can't make the meeting, tap, click or dial. Questions go to Trustees; comments go here.

Before You Scrap Your Plans to Move Your Man-Cave to the Attic...

This is Big Picture. Your own stuff still needs you, and the Village is here to help. Plus, there's this nifty Stormwater Q&A.

Still have questions? Trustees and Public Works are standing by.