News report on how development has impacted flooding problems in Lake County.
In the 18 years between the floods of 1986 and 2004, Lake County created a
storm water management agency to help contain the Des Plaines River.
The county also added a lot of asphalt. By 1995, just three years after that
agency began its work, half of the county's land was classified as "urban,
Those impulses collided this month in the river's flowing water: a flood
control law dictating what can be built near the river, and the development many
planners said adds to the river's volume by blocking the land's ability to
County officials and municipal planners agree the ordinance reduced the woes
of this spring's flood, compared to the flood of 1986.
But the rate of development throughout the Des Plaines River watershed - the
area that drains into the river - since 1986 means a higher volume of water
added to the water flow.
"The public and the private sector have to do lots of little things to solve
the problem," said Ward Miller, director of the Lake County Stormwater
Management Commission. "It's going to be decades of small solutions to solve the
The ordinance bans new homes, businesses and strip malls built since 1992
from creating more storm water runoff than there was before development, Miller
said. It's been the solution for flood control within Lake County for the
watersheds of smaller rivers and streams, he said.
Yet the ordinance cannot control development outside Lake County. Nor can it
control storms that dump 5 inches of rain in the Des Plaines River's headwaters.
It's hard to fight a river that wants to expand, said
Scott Goldstein, vice president of policy and planning for the
Metropolitan Planning Council
, a group
of business and civic leaders promoting good planning and development.
"The Des Plaines will want to flood every once in a while, and we can't
prevent that," Goldstein said.