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By Mike Sandrolini
BERKELEY | Help is on the way for a good percentage of Berkeley residents whose homes, businesses or property have been damaged by flooding in recent years.
Last Wednesday at an open house held at Village Hall, Berkeley Mayor Robert Lee, village officials and village staff formally presented to residents plans to build a storm water retention basin which is expected to be completed late next year.
The retention pond, to be located in the northwest section of town at Wolf Road and McDermott Drive, will cost around $5 million, but is fully funded by outside partners with the village—specifically by grants from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, Cook County and the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) economic development program.
“It’s 100 percent fully funded so there are no village of Berkeley taxes (that are) going to (pay for) this,” said village administrator Rudy Espiritu after Wednesday’s open house. “It’s just amazing to be able to help alleviate flooding.”
Espiritu said around 800 households and businesses in Berkeley—or 40 percent—will be helped once the retention pond is completed. The pond will store over 55 acre feet of storm water. It will be between 16 to 20 feet deep and 400 to 500 square feet. He said bids to construct the retention pond will start next month, and the village will reward the bid in mid-January, with construction to begin around February. The project is estimated to be completed either in November, 2018, or shortly thereafter. Espiritu added the village conducted a survey in 2014 and 2015 to pinpoint areas most hit by flooding—specifically by the flood of 2013.
“We highlighted those areas and targeted those areas into planning this project so that’s how this project started,” he said. “It was beneficial because we got a lot of good information, and when people were leaving here (after the open house last Wednesday), we had a new survey (for residents) to fill out and give it to us so we can plan for this project before goes to bid—and for future projects.” He emphasized that the current project “is going to be one phase of many phases to alleviate flooding in the village.”
Plans to build this retention pond—which will hold water from a major storm and then slowly pump that water into the village storm system when the system is not at full capacity—have been in the works for a few years, Lee said.
“We’re very excited about it because it goes to show you that when you prepare and have a good solid team working on these projects … it’s been over four years since our concept,” Lee said. “I went to a meeting in the Melrose Park civic center, hosted by FEMA and the MWRD and the IDNR, and we walked away from it saying, ‘We need a shovel-ready project.’ Two years ago is when MWRD presented us with the news at Danny Davis’ town hall meeting that we have the grant; we’re good.
“Since then we’ve pursued other grants so it’s good, hard work and we’ve been totally open with the residents.”
The retention pond, Lee noted, also will have a recreational walkway around it for residents to use.
“We want to make it an educational-recreational area, as well, around the pond,” he said. “The infrastructure will be ready for lights, benches, donated trees and memorial trees. In reality, the pond will store water from a six-inch rainfall once a year—hopefully once every 10 years—so what’s that land going to do for us? We might as well use it. That’s our goal.”
During the meeting, one resident reminded attendees and village officials just how devastating flooding has been in certain parts of the village, recalling that he’s lost three cars since he’s lived in Berkeley due to flooding in his garage.
“Other residents along Lind Avenue have a finished basement, laundry down there, you’ve got a furnace down there, you can lose $10,000 to $20,000 overnight” due to a flood, Lee said. “Then you have to deal with it and clean it out. Your whole life is (turned) upside down so we take that very serious.”
“(During the presentation last Wednesday) you could see numerous pictures of streets and backyards that were absolutely flooded,” Espiritu said. “We’re talking about seven/eight feet of water and so we’re hoping that this will help alleviate a lot of that. This is a quality of life issue.”