It’s Happening!

We did it! The westside Wilmette Neighborhood Storage Project is happening!

Engineers are working on final designs for infrastructure that will clear runoff from almost the entire westside Wilmette, for up to a 10-year storm.

What can we expect from the upgrade? The subpar westside storm sewer system will achieve the minimum level of service required for most modern urban development. And the westside will finally receive the level of service that eastside Wilmette has enjoyed for decades.

Two Wilmette Boards in Agreement

At the end of August, two Wilmette boards (the Village Board and the Park Board) approved a Memorandum of Understanding to move ahead with the Neighborhood Storage Project.

As President Bob Bielinski said at the August 27 Village Board meeting:

This gives us enough assurance that we’re going to be able to move forward with the project–move forward and spend money on engineers–with a level of confidence that we’re going to get this done.

After noting that he could see some “familiar faces” in the meeting chambers, including residents who have attended meetings for the past six years of village stormwater debate, Bielinski added:

It’s taken a long time. This project that has a cost, a scope, a complexity, that’s really meaningful. […] And with this agreement, we’ll keep the project moving along on time.

We’ve sort of lost for a minute here the substantial community benefit that this project is going to bring to people who live west of Ridge Road. Whether or not you have a foot, or two feet, or six feet of water in front of your property, every single resident who lives west of Ridge Road and is served by the separate sewer system is going to benefit from an incremental place, a new place, for water to go. And we can’t lose sight of that.

There is a bigger picture here, and it’s taken us a long time to get here but this is really sort of a breakthrough moment.

Wilmette Village Board President, Robert Bielinski,Wilmette Village Board meeting, August 27, 2019.

What’s the Breakthrough?

Currently, during a 10-year storm, the westside looks like this:

Map Source: Village of Wilmette. See source for full-sized maps: 2017 Value Study

Once the Neighborhood Storage Project is completed, a 10-year storm should look like this:

Map Source: Village of Wilmette. CLICK HERE FOR FULL-SIZED PDF

Features of the upgraded system include:

  • Properties Still Flooding: Fewer than a half dozen properties (highlighted in yellow) will still be susceptible to flooding in a 10-year storm.
  • New Detention Tanks: To temporarily detain stormwater during severe storms, underground tanks will be installed in three parks. After a storm subsides, the tanks will slowly drain into the main storm sewer system.
  • New Pipes: More storm sewer pipes of larger diameter will be installed (the Alternative 3 and Optimization Sewers). The new pipes are needed for underserved streets and properties, scattered throughout the westside.
  • Old Pipes: Current storm sewer pipes (the larger Trunk and smaller Laterals) form the existing network of pipes that carry stormwater away from the westside.
  • Pump Station/Chicago River: Both the old and new system rely on a main trunk on Lake Ave, which carries stormwater to the pumping station on the Chicago River.

Make no mistake, the Neighborhood Storage Project is not the Option 1 full-scale stormwater solution. However, once completed, the upgraded westside separated storm sewer system will help keep the relatively clean stormwater free of the much dirtier and more bacteria-filled sewage (sanitary) flows.

By sending cleaner stormwater to the river, the sanitary system will be able to do a better job of keeping up with sewage treatment, even during storms. More stormwater will be cleared of streets and properties, so westside basements, garages, and lower-level living areas will stay drier.

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