Flood Mitigation- How to Prepare Your Home
As we welcome warmer weather, longer days and blooming flowers, we must also prepare for unwelcome rains! The risk of flooding cannot be completely prevented, especially for those residing in flood plain areas, primarily adjacent to the two rivers. In certain circumstances, there are solutions available to a property to help mitigate flooding and help alleviate property or yard damage.
Below recommendations and guidelines will assist in minimizing flood risks:
- Regularly inspect flood protection devices such as backflow preventers, sump pumps, and battery back-ups, as well as check valves and standpipes, to make sure they are in good working condition.
- Contact a licensed plumber to have your storm (rainwater) and sanitary (wastewater) lateral service pipes (running from your home to the street) inspected to make sure they are free of roots and debris.
- Contact a licensed plumber to inspect and verify that storm lateral pipes are not connected to sanitary lateral service pipe or vice-versa. These two lateral pipes should remain separate and are connected separately to the City storm and sanitary main pipes.
- Make sure all exterior drains such as window well drains, outside yard drains, gutters, or street drains are clear of debris, leaves and any other obstructions.
- Install an overhead sanitary sewer system (ejector pit) to alleviate sewer backups.
- City has a voluntary sewer lateral cost-share program to assist with flood backups via sanitary sewer laterals.
- To view floodplain areas, visit FEMA https://msc.fema.gov/portal/home or
City website, www.cityhpil.com, go to Interactive Maps to view both FEMA and City floodplain areas under Layers (on the right side of map). If you need additional information read through the topics below, or contact Wayne Bauer, the Sewer Foreman, 847.926.1150 during business hours.
What is Stormwater Management?
Stormwater management is the method of channeling rainfall through pipes and sewers away from a property to an appropriate body of water or outfall. Excess stormwater requires careful management as the ramifications, like flooding, can negatively affect the City and residents. Typically, stormwater is managed through an underground storm sewer system. However, extreme rain events may overwhelm this type of municipal infrastructure. Excess water that travels on impervious surfaces (e.g. surfaces that do not absorb water), such as roads, may also become contaminated before reaching the outfall location.
Why Do We Flood?
With the ground already saturated to heavy rains, additional rainfall inundates the storm sewers and the two rivers, Skokie River and Middle Fork, overflows. It is simply too much rain in too short a time. The low lying areas, adjacent to the two rivers, including floodplain areas are at risk of flooding with the overtopping of banks and sewers surcharges.
What is the Short-Term Solution to Mitigate Flooding on my Property?
Unfortunately, the risk of flooding cannot be completely prevented, especially for those living in floodplain areas, but there are certain things that can be done to your property to help mitigate flooding and alleviate damage.
- Inspect flood protection devices such as backflow preventers, sump pumps, and battery backups, check valves, standpipes, etc., to be in good working condition.
- Storm (rainwater) and sanitary (wastewater) lateral service pipes (running from home to street) should be free of roots and debris. Have these lateral services inspected and cleaned by authorized licensed plumbers.
- Storm lateral service pipe should not be connected to sanitary lateral service pipe or vice-versa. These two lateral pipes should remain separate and be connected separately to City storm and sanitary main pipes. Contact an authorized licensed plumber for inspection and verification. If a cross connection exists, obtain a building permit for corrected work.
- All exterior drains, such as window well drains, outside yard drains, gutters, street drains, etc., should be clear of debris, leaves, and other obstructions.
- Install an overhead sanitary system to alleviate sewer backups.
Does the City Have Programs to Assist Residents with Flooding?
Rain gardens, Rainbarrels and Retrofitting
The City has investigated and implemented alternative methods to assist with stormwater management. The rain garden is designed to temporarily detain stormwater during heavy or prolonged rain events in order to reduce the rate of surface runoff. In 2017, the City initiated a rain barrel program to help residents obtain low-cost rain barrels. These alternatives are gaining acceptance as measures that can aid in onsite stormwater management. To learn more about residential stormwater management techniques that may have aesthetic and functional benefits, please see the following brochure, Discovering the Benefits of OnSite Stormwater Management.
The City has worked with Northwestern University to develop a Green Infrastructure Summary sheet assisting residents with sustainable alternative programs to assist with urban flooding. A copy of the summary sheet is available here.
Another option residents may consider to mitigate potential flooding is retrofitting. Retrofitting involves initiating changes to an existing property in order to protect it from future hazards. Homeowners can make various types of structural changes to existing property by implementing improved construction technology.
Voluntary Sewer Lateral Cost Share Program
The purpose of the Voluntary Sewer Lateral Cost-Sharing Program is to assist homeowners in minimizing house and property flooding due to sanitary sewer surcharges by addressing the condition of the private sewer lateral, through full lining or complete replacement, or overhead plumbing or other approved sewer backflow-preventing devices. If approved for the Program, residents would be eligible for up to 20% or a maximum of $1,260 reimbursement, whichever is less of the total cost of the private sewer lateral rehabilitation. Learn more.
What is the City Currently Doing to Address Flooding?
The City of Highland Park has been working with both Lake and Cook Counties, Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) on a long-term flood mitigation solution following several floods that devastated parts of Highland Park and dozens of communities throughout the region. A comprehensive regional study was necessary to identify opportunities to mitigate flooding occurring in the community. The preliminary study began in October 2018 and entailed hydraulic modeling and economic analysis for the entire watershed area of the two rivers – the Skokie River and Middle Fork of the North Branch of the Chicago River. Specifically, USACE evaluated a 130 acre-foot storage basin at the Highland Park Country Club for the Skokie River and a 250 acre-foot storage basin at Half Day Road Prairie for the Middle Fork. According to USACE, the economic benefits of the storage basins are extremely unlikely to outweigh the costs. The USACE final report summarizes USACE economic evaluations and data related to the findings of the Preliminary Flood Mitigation Study. The USACE final report could be used to pursue flood mitigation grants and other alternative measures to alleviate localized flooding. In addition other opportunities to reduce flood risk could be evaluated to determine if they are more cost-effective.
On October 21, 2019, Mayor Nancy Rotering brought together a panel of local, state, and federal leaders to discuss the need for a regional flood mitigation plan. Nearly 100 area residents attended the public meeting; a testament to the importance of the request. Panel members included Mayor Nancy R. Rotering; State Senator Julie Morrison; Lake County Board Commissioner Paul Frank; East Skokie Drainage District (ESDD) Chairman Larry Bridges; Dan McManus, US Senator Duckworth’s office; Yasmeen Bankole, US Senator Durbin’s office; Ann Limjoco, US Representative Schakowsky’s office; Greg Claus, US Representative Schneider’s office; Joshua May, State Representative Morgan’s office; Delcan Binninger, Chief of Staff for IEMA; and Mike Warner, Lake County Stormwater Management Commission. In addition to 11 panel members, City of Highland Park staff, Army Corps of Engineers, Lake County Emergency Management Association, and representatives from Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and Lake County Stormwater Commission were in attendance. A summary of the meeting is available here.
The City continues to work with Lake County SMC to pursue the Voluntary Buyout Program to eligible owners of homes located in a floodway, floodplain, or subject to severe damage from flooding. The program is funded in part by Federal Emergency Management Agency grants which are used to purchase eligible homes at fair market value. Homes purchased through the Voluntary Buyout Program are demolished and the floodplain property is returned to open space. To learn more about this program, please visit www.lakecountyil.gov/3973/Flood-Information-and-Programs. Residents should continue to contact U.S. Representative Brad Schneider at https://schneider.house.gov/contact or 847.383.4870 with questions and concerns.
The City of Highland Park, in conjunction with various third-party engineering consultants, has developed master plans for both the City’s storm and specified-areas sanitary sewer systems that identify future capital projects that are scheduled for completion. The purpose of these master plans is to develop a comprehensive approach to operating, maintaining and improving the City’s storm and sanitary sewer systems. Click here to review the 2018 Storm Sewer Master Plan summary document. And click here to review 2018 specified-areas Sanitary Sewer Master Plan document. The Master Plans are used as guidelines to prioritize infrastructure improvement projects. Each year, as part of the capital improvement plan, the master plans are reviewed and projects prioritized based on numerous factors.
Since the mid-1990s, the City has completed improvements to over 27miles of its storm and sanitary sewer lines including priority sanitary and storm sewer areas reducing inflow and infiltration into the City’s sanitary sewer system and upsizing of City storm sewers to meet the 10-yr storm design standards. A 10-yr rain event is classified as a storm possessing an intensity that has a 10% chance of occurring in any given year. In addition, City has lined City-owned and maintained sanitary sewer mains to extend their life cycle and functionality. And to prevent stormwater infiltration on City-owned sanitary sewers.
Has the City Considered Dredging the Skokie River?
Dredging is a major undertaking that must be initiated by the ACOE. The Skokie River has multiple jurisdictions such as ACOE and Drainage Districts along with all municipalities through which the river flows. The Skokie River begins up north (around Washington St in Waukegan) and ultimately discharges into Wilmette Golf Course where it merges with Middle Fork of North Branch Chicago River. The ACOE-initiated projects typically take multiple years to plan and study. The construction phase takes anywhere from 7-10 years after initiation of a study. ACOE reviewed all long-term flood solutions including potential dredging.
Has the City Considered a Buy-Out Program?
As part of City’s flood mitigation efforts, a voluntary flood buy-out program is available to eligible property owners to purchase flood prone properties. This program is strictly a voluntary program available to the residents to purchase their flood-prone home using grants. Several grant opportunities are available, one buy-out grant program is the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) grant program that makes funds available to local communities to reduce the risk to individuals and property from flooding and also reduce reliance on grant funding from future disasters. Lake County Stormwater Management Commission (LCSMC) administers the voluntary flood buy-out program. The flood buy-out program has strict guidelines on properties that are eligible for consideration. The guidelines include cost of flood damages, frequency of flooding and height of flooding within the structure (up to first floor is required in most cases). Homeowners are not forced to sell their property - it is strictly a volunteer program. The homeowner can withdraw their application at any time prior to accepting the offer of sale price. The sale price is negotiated between the grantee, LCSMC, and the homeowner.
On an annual basis or upon call for grant applications, LCSMC, in partnership with City, notifies interested residents to gauge their interest in the voluntary flood buy-out program. Residents provide pertinent flood-damage information on their properties to LCSMC to be considered for the voluntary buy-out program. LCSMC evaluates eligible properties and compiles a list of properties including other Lake County community properties to apply for grants. Upon notification of grant approval, the ensuing paperwork process is administered by LCSMC including negotiating the property purchase price with the homeowner, securing rights to the property, preparation of closing documents including legal documents and securing contractor and completion of demolition. The voluntary flood buy-out program could take multiple years from initial start of application to sale of property.
Upon sale of property, the property is transferred to the City to maintain as green space. LCSMC fronts the funding for the entire buy-out program and seeks reimbursement from City. The grant pays 75% of costs whereas City pays 25% including a 5% administrative fee charged by LCSMC. For additional details on LCSMC administration of buy-out program including staff contact, please visit LCSMC website and look for Voluntary Floodplain Buy Out Program or click here http://www.lakecountyil.gov/3973/Flood-Information-and-Programs
Are There Other Programs Available for Homeowners who Experience Flooding?
The City belongs to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that requires the City to apply and enforce floodplain regulations in compliance with FEMA, IDNR, and Lake County Watershed Development requirements. FEMA under the Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage provides up to $30,000 to help cover the cost of mitigation measures that will reduce flood risk. To qualify for ICC coverage, a building has to be substantially damaged or meet the criteria of a repetitive loss structure. For additional details, please review the ICC coverage Fact Sheet.
Is There a Valve that Can Be Opened in the Chicago Botanic Garden?
There is no valve to be opened.
In the 1960’s, the Chicago Botanic Garden constructed a structure called a weir (resembling a wall) on the Skokie River just downstream of the Lake Cook Road Bridge (in Cook County). The weir was intended to keep the low flows of the Skokie River, and associated pollutants, out of the ponds in the garden. A “diversion channel” was also constructed at this time to maintain/direct the low flows of the Skokie River around the garden; avoiding the ponds. When the Skokie River rises to the top elevation of the weir, it overflows into the garden. Once the river reaches the top of the weir, no valves or locks are necessary. The river flows into the garden unrestricted. The flow in the diversion channel continues unrestricted. There is nothing at the garden that can be “opened” to lower the level of the river. The Skokie River will begin receding as the rain stops and the flow from “upstream” passes through Highland Park.
What is a Floodplain?
A portion of Highland Park, the low-lying areas adjacent to the two rivers, falls into the floodplain. Properties within the floodplain are susceptible to flooding. The flooding greatly impacts residential properties located near the Skokie River and the Middle Fork as water flows from north (Old Elm Road) to the south (Lake Cook Road) within Highland Park. The Skokie River discharges into the Chicago Botanic Garden, whereas the Middle Fork drains into the Northbrook Court pond. Both these rivers ultimately merge and flow through Cook County Forest Preserve property, west of Wilmette Golf Course. By their very definition, these areas are governed by Federal, State, and local regulations. The City adopted two floodplain regulations, one is the FEMA floodplain that is required to provide subsidized flood insurance and the City’s floodplain. The City floodplain area is a higher threshold than FEMA’s to protect the homes. The floodplain map can also be viewed on the City’s website under Interactive Maps (click "Layer" on the top right, select your community, and then select the floodplain layers you wish to view).
Highland Park Flood Plains
A copy of FEMA floodplain areas are seen in Highland Park Flood Plain Map. The City of Highland Park (CHP) floodplain zone provides added security (higher flood protection elevation) than FEMA floodplain area. Please see map above showing the limits of City of Highland Park floodplain area (light blue color) and City’s storm sewer system (red color). You can view any property within FEMA floodplain areas by going to FEMA Map Service Center.
The Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure Act The Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure Act requires that all home sellers disclose whether or not the home for sale is in a floodplain. Residents who are unsure if their property is in a floodplain can visit the FEMA website.
Most of the street flooding occurs in low lying areas and most of the homes impacted are the ones built before the adoption of CHP or FEMA floodplain maps and stormwater management ordinances. All new developments (commercial or subdivisions) are to comply with Lake County watershed development ordinance whereby detention and floodplain compensatory storage is required to be stored on property equaling 100-year event in a 24-hour rainfall. As the Skokie River rises, the outfall of City storm sewer system is surcharged thereby causing water to back up into the pipes and ultimately releasing out of inlets on streets. The creek overtopping occurs when too much rain falls in short duration or too much persistent rain falls over a long time.
Has the Flooding on My Property Has Worsened?The reason properties are experiencing increased flooding is because the area has experienced frequent events of record-breaking rainfall in a shorter amount of time. Flash floods in 2017 broke records for the wettest days in recent history. Over 4 inches of rain fell nonstop, on an already saturated ground, resulting in flooding throughout the area.
What Should I Do If I Am Experiencing Flooding?
Residents experiencing flooding should:
- Use reasonable precautions to protect your family from contaminated or flooded waters;
- Restrict use of plumbing appliances until rains subside including dishwasher, showers, toilets, laundry and other appliances;
- Identify the source of flooding and call an appropriate licensed professional;
- If you are experiencing a sanitary sewer backup, in addition to calling a licensed plumber please also contact Public Works Department at 847.432.0807 (during business hours) or 847.432.7730 (after-hours).
Sandbags are available to be filled at the City Of Highland Park Public Works Facility, 1150 Half Day Rd.
Are There Health Risks Related to Floodwater Contact?
The Lake County Health Department has provided important health and safety information to protect individuals in the event of a flood. Read their comprehensive tips about how to stay safe when and after flooding has occurred.
How Do I Dispose of Items Damaged by the Flood?
If you have items that need to be removed due to flood damage, please call Lakeshore Recycling at 773.685.8811 for pricing and to schedule a pickup.
How Do I Find Street Closure Information?
For updated road conditions, please visit Lake County PASSAGE at www.lakecountypassage.com.
Where Can I Report and Find Out What Streets are Flooded in a Storm?
Flooded streets can be reported 24/7 by using the City’s Non-Emergency Request Tracker on the City website. This feature can be used to report flooding and view streets that have already been reported. This link can also be used to report other service requests to the City.
Residents can also report street flooding by calling Public Works at 847.432.0807 during business hours or calling police non-emergency after-hours at 847.432.7730.
Where Do I Sign-up for City Communication Regarding Flooding?
eNews & Social Media The City issues communication alerts via eNews, the website, and social media. When the City receives an alert from the Lake County Emergency Management Agency, the alert is then sent out through the City’s Public Safety Alerts eNews, posted on the City website, and posted on our social media pages (Facebook and Twitter). Residents are encouraged to sign up for the City eNews and Public Safety Alerts eNews at www.cityhpil.com/signup.
Emergency Notification System The City of Highland Park has an Emergency Voice Notification System, a high-speed telephone communication service for emergency notifications. The system allows the City to telephone the entire community or a targeted area in the event of an emergency that requires immediate action. The system is only used in emergency situations such as a boil order notification, missing persons, evacuation notices, gas leaks or other emergencies where rapid notification is essential for public safety. Published residential and business telephone numbers are automatically downloaded into the system. Residents with unlisted numbers or cell phones should register to ensure they receive notification. Sign up at www.cityhpil.com/signup.
Storm Recovery Contact Information
|City Public Works Dept.||847.432.0807|
|North Shore Gas||866.556.6004|
|Lake County Health Dept.||847.377.8000|
|AT&T Landline Service||800.288.2020|
|Lakeshore Recycling Systems||773.685.8811|