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Glencoe officials to tackle flooding

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Chicago Tribune
by Susan Berger

For one Glencoe neighborhood, a forecast of rain prompts some homeowners to sandbag and hope for the best.

About 100 residents north of Dundee Road in the Skokie Heights and Skokie Ridge areas recently petitioned village officials for help in dealing with flooding. At a recent Village Board meeting, homeowners cited property damage, safety hazards and insurance coverage problems.

"When there is an inch of rain, I can't get any sleep," Glencoe resident Yunnhan Choi said. "Even on vacation, we have to watch Chicago weather."

Officials said the main problem involves a 2.5-square-mile area that drains into the East Diversion Ditch, which is clogged with silt and debris. The ditch is on Cook County Forest Preserve District property and was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps at the same time as Skokie Lagoons.

The lagoons have been dredged as part of the Clean Lakes program, but the ditch has never been cleaned.

"Officials have been studying the problem since 1990. It's not a complicated problem," said David Mau, Glencoe director of public works. "It is a complicated solution."

Village President Tony Ruzicka said that only recently did Glencoe get the attention of Cook County.

After Hohlfelder Road flooded three times within a 24-hour period in late May, county Commissioner Larry Suffredin sent a crew to clear some debris from the ditch, village officials said. Suffredin said last week that he will push for a cleanup.

"I will not support other county programs until the East Diversion Ditch is done," Suffredin said. "It is our responsibility. We have legal liability if we don't."

Suffredin said ditch-cleaning cost estimates run from $750,000 to $1 million.

Glencoe officials have met with Steve Bylina, general superintendent of the Forest Preserve District, Suffredin said.

"I believe we can get the money for this," Suffredin said. "If not, I will offer it as an amendment to the budget."

In 1987, Choi's new home had one sump pump. He has had as much as 2 feet of water in his house and now has four sump pumps. Neighbors also have added pumps, built berms, relocated patios and sandbagged the perimeter of their homes.

Delores Koppel, an 18-year resident of the area, has pulled up carpeting and tossed sofas. Her insurance company increased the deductible to $2,500, and she is reluctant to submit more claims.

"I understand three strikes and you're out," she said.

Julie Lewin, a mother of four, worries about flooding when her children walk home from school and the ability of emergency vehicles and buses to get through the neighborhood.

Even though the ditch is the county's responsibility, Mau said, the village has spent about $1.2 million, including construction of a bypass sewer in 1996, to try to alleviate the problem.

The Village Board also considered paying to clean the ditch in 1996 but found the cost prohibitive, officials said.

"It's a combination of timing as well as recent flooding that has brought renewed attention," Mau said.

Almost half of the village's 3,000 homes drain into the ditch, Mau said.

The other part of the solution is construction of 52-inch storm sewers, at an estimated cost of $750,000, Mau said. Trustees have asked Mau to begin the design process with construction expected to be done next year.

"It is our intention to take care of this by next spring," Trustee Deborah Cogan said. "We will move as quickly as possible and commit the funds and continue to lobby the Cook County Forest Preserve."

Despite progress, some people have asked the village for a temporary fix.

"The over-land flow backs up streets, front yards, back yards and terrorizes basements and anything in its path," Mau said. "An interim solution is difficult."

Although the Weather Channel is always on in Mau's office, during off-hours it would take crews at least 45 minutes to respond, which is too late, he said.

"By the time we are pumping, it is damage control, not prevention," he said.

The ditch cleanup also would benefit residents who live on Elm Place, Sycamore Lane and the edge of the Skokie Country Club at Park and South Avenues, officials said.

Mau said his staff would visit residents and offer advice on property improvements. People also can help by clearing catch basins of leaves or grass clippings, he said.

 

 



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