Des Plaines Flood Management

The Des Plaines River, which runs through Des Plaines, IL, has been known to wreak havoc for both residents and tourists alike, especially when there is intense rain activity. Residents incur damage on their properties, and there are certain roadways that are notorious for closing after heavy rainfall. Despite the flooding and road closures, the city has implemented several engineering measures to predict and control flooding in the area.

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In 2003, the City of Des Plaines started construction on the Levee 50 project. This project includes a pump station with seven 10-foot square gates built along Busse Highway, plus flood walls along the Des Plaines River banks. Levee 50 mitigates flooding in the city of Des Plaines by preventing excess rainfall runoff in the Des Plaines River from flowing back up the creek, which causes the flooding. When the water level of the Des Plaines River reaches a certain elevation, the gates in the pump station close and work to pump the excess water back into the river.

The city has also designed and constructed a major stormwater detention center at Prairie Lakes Park to serve the area. In addition to specific projects aimed at controlling the stormwater runoff, the city also has strict stormwater compensation ordinances in place for construction in the area. Terra has been involved in several projects in Des Plaines. One of them was the design of a condo building built on stilts to account for the flood plain.

Flooding in Des Plains, IL.

Flooding in Des Plains, IL.

Although the city has actively attempted to control flooding in the area, recent technologies have emerged that allow for more accurate floodplain mapping and prediction. Unfortunately, areas that had been previously mapped and assessed may now have an increased risk prediction.  

The city and surrounding affected areas are working with the Army Corp of Engineers on a larger scale solution to comprehensively address the river basin’s flooding issue. Part of the proposed solution has been to clear high-risk residential flood areas and return them to undeveloped lands.  Buyouts have even been offered to property owners around the high-risk areas; the idea is to give residents a chance to escape the issue. However, the reception to the offers has been both positive and negative. Let’s hope that the residents and other parties involved can come to an agreement.

The flood mitigation plan for the Des Plaines River is very much still an active project.