Officials: Lisle flood control project could get federal help

Updated 8/8/2018 8:33 AM
  • Lisle experienced widespread flooding in April 2013. Now officials are considering a project that would improve an earthen levee in the village.

    Lisle experienced widespread flooding in April 2013. Now officials are considering a project that would improve an earthen levee in the village. Daily Herald file photo

More than five years after storms caused major flooding throughout DuPage County, a proposal to improve an earthen levee in Lisle could receive federal funding, according to a draft report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps recently completed a DuPage River feasibility study in partnership with DuPage County Stormwater Management and the Will County Executive's office.

The report, released this week, contains recommendations to address flood risks on the river and its tributaries in DuPage and Will.

One project that's eligible for federal funding is repairing the Lisle levee that keeps water from the East Branch of the DuPage River from overflowing into nearby homes.

"Obviously, the Corps did a nice job working with us and Will County to take an extensive look," said Jim Zay, chairman of DuPage County's stormwater management committee. "We had other areas that didn't rise to the level of getting funding, but Lisle has always been a bigger problem there along the East Branch of the DuPage River."

The levee runs along the East Branch and St. Joseph Creek between I-88 and Burlington Avenue.

Constructed in 1961, the structure has deteriorated over time. There are trees and power poles built into it and some areas have been hit by settling or erosion.

And because Lisle doesn't own the land on which the levee was built, the village doesn't have access to maintain it.

"Whoever did it never got any easements over it," said Anthony Charlton, DuPage County's director of stormwater management. "So technically, every one of those property owners owns their chunk of this thing. And they have no ability to maintain it, so nobody has."

As a result, Charlton said the levee can't even offer the protection it originally was built to provide. He said it's not capable of handling a 100-year storm, which is a storm that has a 1 percent chance of occurring each year.

Based on the condition and height of the levee -- which resembles a large berm -- water could flow over it and the structure itself is at risk of failure, according to the report.

That's exactly what happened when DuPage experienced widespread flooding in April 2013. Both waterways in Lisle were inundated with record-setting volumes of water and it was too much for the levee to handle.

While what happened in 2013 was significant, Zay stressed that flooding has been a problem in Lisle for many years.

"It's not getting any better," he said. "We've looked at it. Lisle has looked at it. This is now the federal government stepping in and saying this project is needed."

The proposed project would reduce the chance of flooding for about 175 structures, according to the report.

"It benefits the residential area," Charlton said. "It benefits the downtown of Lisle. It benefits anybody that travels Route 53 south of I-88.

"It has a regional impact," he said. "That's why it's big enough for the Corps to get involved."

Zay said the county and Lisle wouldn't have enough money to do the project without federal help. So he's hoping residents let officials know they support the report's findings.

The report is available online at Projects/DuPage-River/.

Public comments about the document are being accepted by the Corps' Chicago District through Aug. 30. Comments may be submitted by email to or mailed to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District, 231 S. LaSalle Street, Ste. 1500, Chicago, IL 60604, ATTN: DuPage River.

In addition, two public meetings are scheduled about the plan. The first will be at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 15, in the auditorium of DuPage's administration building, 421 N. County Farm Road in Wheaton. The second is planned for 6 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 16, at the Plainfield Public Works Building, 14400 Coil Plus Drive.

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