A federal study recommends some $400 million to $450 million worth of projects aimed at limiting flood damage and restoring ecosystems along the Des Plaines River in Cook and Lake counties and southeastern Wisconsin.
The recommendations by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers encompass 27 projects along the Upper Des Plaines River between Racine, Wis., and Southwest suburban Riverside, and includes construction of levees, flood walls and reservoirs.
The report also suggests voluntary "nonstructural" measures, including floodproofing hundreds of homes and a buyout program for the most flood-prone structures.
The timing of the release of the study comes after April's record-setting floods left many towns along the river under water.
Officials from the Army Corps have been working on the study since 2002 and are now seeking feedback from the public on the proposed projects.
On Monday, they presented their draft study during an open house at Mount Prospect's village hall in what was the first of three public meetings in towns adjacent to the Des Plaines River. They will make similar presentations today in Libertyville and Wednesday in Bristol, Wis.
One proposed project in particular, construction of an 11,100-foot levee and flood wall between Touhy Avenue and Miner Street in Des Plaines, caught the eye of Margaret Zelk, a Des Plaines resident since 1974 who says flooding in her neighborhood has never been as bad as it is now.
"When I first moved to Des Plaines, there was no issue with where I lived," Zelk said. "But now every year it's getting worse and worse, and it's coming more often and coming higher every time. They have to do something. The levee in Des Plaines is like a godsend."
The so-called Ashland-Fargo Levee would rise 15 feet high on the west side of the river and would cost between $15 million and $25 million to build. The report also recommends construction of levees in Riverside, River Grove, and on the Schiller Park-Franklin Park border.
Other proposed projects include:
Construction of a reservoir at Aptakisic Creek in Buffalo Grove that would provide about 50 acre-feet of stormwater storage, estimated to cost between $15 million and $20 million.
Construction of a pumping station at Lake Mary Anne, near Golf Road and Reding Circle in Maine Township, in which stormwater would be pumped out of the lake to Dude Rand Pond through a 12-inch pipe under Golf Road. The estimated cost is between $500,000 and $1 million.
Removal of five small dams -- two in Des Plaines, two in Park Ridge and one in Wheeling -- that engineers say will improve the river flow and restore the habitat to a more natural condition. The cost is estimated to be $500,000 to $1 million.
Restoration of about 11,000 acres of natural areas, including marshes, meadows, prairies, savannas and forests. It includes the Northbrook Marsh in Wheeling and Beck Lake Meadow in Des Plaines and Glenview, and eight areas in Lake County.
Completing all the projects could take up to 20 years, and each would require congressional approval, according to Jeff Zuercher, the Army Corps project manager.
The federal government would fund 65 percent of each project's cost, while the remaining 35 percent would come from a local source, such as the state, county or a municipality.
Tuesday's public meeting at the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission, 500 W. Winchester Road in Libertyville, is scheduled to begin with an open house at 5:30 p.m., followed by a presentation at 6:30 p.m.
Officials from the Army Corps will take public comment on the report until Oct. 2, and then conduct an internal review of the proposed projects this fall. They plan to give their final recommendations to officials in Washington, D.C., next summer, before formally seeking congressional approval of the projects in the fall of 2014.