Army Corps plan could put Didier Farms under water
BY RONNIE WACHTER email@example.com | @ronniewachter September 24, 2013 10:14PM
Army Corps of Engineers' proposed flood relief plan for Aptakisic Creek and Didier Farms in unincorporated Lake County.
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The Corps will take comments until Oct. 2. After that, the plan moves back to Washington where Congress may consider it for funding in fall 2014.
Updated: October 26, 2013 6:43AM
It’s officially pumpkin patch season at Didier Farms, but the Army Corps of Engineers has plans to put much of the 80-acre unincorporated Lake County property under water.
The Army Corps of Engineers announced Monday a sweeping plan to address the $52 million in annual damages caused when the Des Plaines River and its tributaries flood their 477-square-mile watershed. Record floods struck the Des Plaines River region in April and June.
Project manager Jeff Zuercher said the Corps initiated a study in 2002 to analyze 108 flood zones in the 86 communities along the 330 river-miles of the Des Plaines and its tributaries. The Corps’ proposal, unveiled to an audience of 20 in Mount Prospect’s council chamber, details changes for Aptakisic and Buffalo creeks.
Aptakisic Creek cuts through the northwest corner of the Didier property, 16678 W. Aptakisic Road in unincorporated Lake County, and one of the Corps’ focal points is to convert the farm’s rows of vegetables into a stormwater retention pond. Officials with the Corps’ Chicago District also revealed plans for new levees, retention ponds, dam removals and more.
Zuercher outlined three proposals with multiple scopes and costs.
Many projects in the midlevel plan will require permission from Congress as well as funding; the conversion of Didier Farms into a retention pond is one of those. According to the Corps’ map on display Monday, most of the 80-acre Didier property would become 550-acre-feet (the aquatic equivalent of cubic feet) of stormwater storage. That plan would leave the Didier family with its existing buildings and a small field at the northeast corner of Aptakisic and Buffalo Grove roads.
Federal funding, estimated at $417.4 million, must be appropriated by Congress, which will not consider any of the proposals for at least a year, Zuercher said. “For every dollar that we spend building something, we need to have a dollar saved in flood damage reduction.”
As for other regional flood relief options, Zuercher said the Corps had expressed interest in expanding the Buffalo Creek Reservoir, but its owner, the Lake County Forest Preserve District, is not interested.
“We’ve hit an impasse,” Zuercher said. “We’re really struggling to get the real estate needed to get anything done up there.”
Ann Maine, president of the Lake County Forest Preserve Board, told a different version of the Buffalo Creek story.
“That’s actually not true,” Maine said Tuesday. “Very interesting.”
She said the district and the Corps first discussed the reservoir years ago, but the Corps chose to build a new flood basin in Wheeling. The district is still looking to expand the reservoir, Maine said, but with a new partner.
“We are in discussion with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District for expansion at Buffalo Creek,” Maine said.
The Corps does not have eminent domain authority to force the plan onto Didier Farm, but Zuercher said the agency could partner with a government that does. Buffalo Grove and Lake County have spoken against the plan, but state government could become a player, he said.
“Buffalo Grove may have a development plan today, and Didier Farms may have a plan to continue farming forever, but no one knows what’s will happen in 20 years,” Zuercher said. “I look to keep our options open, because we don’t have many options with stormwater management.”