Flooding near Lake Ellyn still baffles Glen Ellyn officials
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Whenever there's a major storm in Glen Ellyn, residents downstream from Lake Ellyn say they brace for the worst.
The man-made lake, which acts as a stormwater detention facility for a one-square-mile area near the village's downtown, discharges water north of the lake through underground pipes that lead to nearby Perry's Pond and eventually the East Branch of the DuPage River.
It's those residences around the pond, located near the intersection of Riford Road and Chidester Avenue, that often get hit the hardest by flooding.
Take the case of Kurt Kabot, who told village and park district officials last week that he has dealt with ankle-deep water in his house, had large rocks displaced in his yard, and found 3-pound carp at his front door.
"Why was a house built in a flow path?" Kabot said at a recent meeting about Lake Ellyn flooding. "I can't sleep in my house knowing it's going to rain tonight. I got fish at my front door."
A consultant hired by the village and park district to investigate flooding in the neighborhood has offered several recommendations that could reduce the overflow of Lake Ellyn, or at least reduce its effects when it does happen.
No matter what, officials say, none of the solutions will completely stop the lake from overflowing.
"That's a fact of nature," said Bill Rickert, president of RHMG Engineers, the Mundelein-based engineering firm that conducted the village- and park district-commissioned hydrologic and hydraulic study.
Officials from both agencies split the $51,430 cost to hire the consultant in 2011 after major storms in September 2008 and July 2010 left homes, roads and Lake Ellyn Park under water. Initial recommendations were presented in April 2012 in addition to a follow-up report in January.
Significant floods in April likely have increased the urgency to find solutions.
Following the April floods, then-Village President Mark Pfefferman took responsibility for the "failure" of the village and park district to execute plans that could fix lake flooding.
Pfefferman's 4-year term ended in May, and now newly elected leaders are getting up to speed on the issue. After a meeting last week with residents to discuss flooding, Rickert led members of the village and park boards on a tour of the lake to provide first-person visuals for some of what his report recommends.
One proposal is to regrade a sideyard between two properties on Riford that most often take the brunt of stormwater flows. That project would cost about $21,000.
In the same area on Riford, the consultant recommends installation of a 42-inch storm sewer under the street, adjacent an existing 33-inch storm sewer. The new sewer wouldn't contain all the overflow from Lake Ellyn, but it could reduce the amount of water that flows through yards on Riford, according to the report.
That project is estimated to cost $132,000.
The report suggests both plans would have prevented property damage during the July 2010 flood.
But the proposal to install another storm sewer is facing resistance from the property owner who would have to give permission for the construction to take place, since the structure would take up a portion of his yard.
A channel that connects stormwater sewers to Perry's Pond runs through Joe Sinopoli's property on Riford, and it already contains two sewers that he says were at full capacity during the April storm.
"My wife and I have done all we can to help the village stop the flooding. But we can't take any more water," Sinopoli said. "We believe we're already at the max."
Last year the Sinopolis granted the village an easement to make improvements to the channel, including installation of block retaining walls on both sides of the structure, removal of trees, and addition of native plantings. But the April storm damaged the channel, leading village officials to admit they underestimated such damages when improvements were constructed.
Now, they say, repairs will be taking place as quickly as possible.
The village and park district already have implemented some of the consultant's suggested changes.
They've lowered the lake's normal water level from 707.5 feet to 707 feet, which increases the storage capacity. And the park district has twice this year lowered the lake level even further 24 hours before a major storm arrives.
Officials also have removed a restrictor plate on an outlet pipe that increases the water discharge rate from 23 cubic feet per second to 37 cubic feet per second.
Now, Glen Ellyn officials are trying to get DuPage County approval to increase that rate above 61.4 cubic feet per second, the maximum allowable under the county's stormwater and floodplain ordinance.
Also under consideration is increasing the length of the lake's weir — a device that influences how fast water can leave early on in a storm event — by eight feet.
Plans to raise the lake's high water level and to expand the footprint of the lake were not recommended by the consultant. In the first case, it could lead to flooding in the park, at Duchon Field at Glenbard West High School, and on nearby roads. In the second case, park land and mature trees could be affected.
Despite his frustration with flooding, Sinopoli gave the village and park district credit for taking steps over the past few years to try to remedy the situation.
"In this village, they understand the problem and they want to fix the problem," he said. "They're talking about a lot of solutions, and it's all worthwhile to think about all the pros and cons."
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