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Article updated: 7/1/2013 10:18 PM

River towns push for faster compeltion of Wheeling flood-relief project

By Deborah Donovan

Leaders from Northwest suburban communities along the Des Plaines River say they will push for the ongoing flood relief project in Wheeling's Heritage Park to be finished as soon as possible.

The agreement came Monday after officials from Des Plaines, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights and Wheeling met with representatives of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about Levee 37 and the Heritage Park work.

The levee became a contentious issue in the spring when Mount Prospect and Prospect Heights closed a 600-foot gap to prevent significant damage in their communities after record storms hit the region. Des Plaines officials said that worsened flooding in their city, though the IDNR ruled otherwise and cleared Mount Prospect and Prospect Heights of wrongdoing.

Des Plaines City Manager Mike Bartholomew said city officials still disagree with the IDNR findings, but what's important from Monday's meeting is that all parties agreed to push for the earliest possible completion of the Heritage Park basins.

"It's not important to talk about what happened in the past or what other towns will do when the rain falls," he said. "We need to work on digging the holes."

Wheeling Village President Dean Argiris agreed, saying the huge construction project aggravated flooding in his village.

State officials agreed to meet next with Metropolitan Water Reclamation District representatives to see if the Heritage Park project can be accelerated, Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek said.

"One of the state officials said that flood fighting in Illinois is like the Old West with no regulation at all," she said.

Although the IDNR found that the actions of Mount Prospect and Prospect Heights didn't make flooding worse in Des Plaines, they did criticize the towns for not communicating better with neighboring communities.

Prospect Heights Mayor Nick Helmer said everyone agreed Monday that communication among the municipalities is critical.

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