Flooding controls need to be part of Foxconn, agency says

A chorus of concern grew louder this week over potential impacts of the huge Foxconn development on flooding and water quality downstream along the Des Plaines River.

While Vernon Hills and Long Grove on Tuesday joined other communities in approving a resolution opposing Wisconsin's decisions to reduce environmental standards related to Foxconn, the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission announced it hired an engineering firm to review the plant and related adjacent improvements.

The Taiwan-owned company, a major supplier to Apple for its iPhones, is building a large manufacturing facility in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, that could employ up to 13,000.

According to SMC, the site is in the headwaters of the Des Plaines River Watershed, which is immediately upstream of Lake County and encompasses a major source of surface water.

Intense rain in the watershed in July 2017 created "catastrophic and record-breaking flood heights" in the region, according to SMC.

"To address watershed-wide flood impacts, it is essential proper flood mitigation methods for Foxconn and the surrounding area are planned, designed and enforced," the agency said in announcing the review.

On Aug. 2, the agency hired Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd. of Rosemont to conduct a multi-phased analysis. The firm will collect data and review the proposed development, wetland mitigation and water quality impacts as part of a $73,850 contract.

It also will review calculations for stormwater storage for all aspects of Foxconn and related and adjacent developments and compare that to local, county and state requirements. Wisconsin officials have said the plant won't exacerbate flooding downstream.

Foxconn will be good for Lake County in some respects, but the cost of flooding has shown environmental impacts need to be "proactively and adequately addressed" as part of the development process, according to SMC.

"The economic development and potential job opportunities would have a positive impact on this region but we want to make sure our residents are not adversely affected," SMC Chairman and county board member Craig Taylor said in announcing the review.

"Lake County has made a large investment in flood mitigation activities, and we want to ensure those efforts are supported watershed wide," Taylor added.

SMC Executive Director Mike Warner said the agency hopes to begin receiving preliminary information within a month.

In June, SMC and Lake County approved resolutions opposing Wisconsin decisions to reduce environmental standards applying to Foxconn and adjacent development. They have been joined by Vernon Hills, Long Grove, Mundelein, Lincolnshire, Gurnee and the Lake County Municipal League.

Also in June, the Illinois Senate approved a resolution backed by state Sen. Melinda Bush urging Wisconsin "to consider the serious environmental and public health concerns" that might threaten Illinois residents because of Foxconn.

"It's not that we're jealous it's being built in Wisconsin, I really don't care about that," Vernon Hills village Trustee Thom Koch said Tuesday before village board approval.

"I don't like to see something this large built without making sure the impact won't be harmful to people downstream."

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