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Wheaton council ponders $10.4M floodwater project for south side of city

WHEATON – Though it came months later than expected, the Wheaton City Council recently received a major flooding survey that could be a key piece of the eventual stormwater puzzle in the city.

During Monday's council meeting, consultant Christopher B. Burke Engineering and city staff presented the Briarcliffe Lakes System Flood Study.

Looking at historic flooding information, building drawings, field investigations and other information, the two organizations mapped out the flood zone risks of the area from Butterfield road up to the Williston Basin in the 500 block of Kipling Court.

Erik Gil, project manager at Burke, said the goal of the survey was to show which areas in that section of the city were more susceptible to extreme flooding – such as the April 2013 event – and provide alternatives for the council to consider.

The area includes a pair of lakes near the border of Wheaton and Glen Ellyn near the College of DuPage, which are the primary cause of the flooding in the area, according to the study.

In all, 43 homes typically flood during a 100-year storm, or rainfall that only has a one percent chance of happening each year. All largely effected homes centered around Briarcliffe Boulevard and Brentwood Lane and surrounding side streets.

Gil proposed several alternatives, including converting the nearby Briar Patch Park into a water retention basin, restoring a berm near the College of DuPage and buyouts.

However, he believed the best combination of effectiveness and price was construction of a new 3.5-foot by 10-foot culvert from Brentwood and Cheshire lanes south to the Windsor Channel into the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's Rice Lake.

"[It] is a viable option to decrease flooding in the area," city stormwater engineer Joe Tebrugge said. "It's actually one of the few areas in town where we actually have an option to take water somewhere else."

The project would decrease the water levels in some areas by as much as 5.5 feet and eliminate overland flooding in 42 homes in case of the 100-year critical event, the study said.

In order to do so, the city would have to conduct a formal study to determine any negative effects downstream, receive proper permitting through the county and get permission from the forest preserve. Gil said he estimated the channel would easily absorb the 0.3-foot increase in the floodwater elevation.

But all that would come with an estimated $10.4 million price tag.

"The hurdle is always funding them," Tebrugge said.

He explained the city had two avenues for outside funding – the Department of Housing and Urban Development's National Disaster Resilience Competition and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

The former is a competitive grant that can award up to $1 billion for resiliency strategies that still have needs after the April 2013 floods. The program is administered through DuPage County and 50 percent of all funding must be used in low- to moderate-income areas, which covers the area in question.

The latter is an annual program administered by FEMA that uses an analysis software to determine whether it is a cost-effective program.

Tebrugge said after the meeting that, while the city's plan came more than two years after the April 2013 floods, he believed that the city would still have the potential to receive funding through the two programs.

Though the city likely wouldn't make many moves before it had the chance to survey its remaining 17 flood prone areas over the next two years, he said he believed taking the time to do a full study was worthwhile in the long run.

"Completing a flood control program takes a long time," he said. "A lot of cities had already been doing them for years when the floods happened ... Being fair is important. You can set precedents that you can't afford. So even if you miss out on the possibility of funding, it is better that you go through the development."

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