#EndCalumetFlooding: A unique event introduced new tools - Metropolitan Planning Council

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#EndCalumetFlooding: A unique event introduced new tools

On Friday, March 9, MPC and Calumet partners hosted our first-ever on-the-ground stormwater training in the region

Kristi DeLaurentiis, Executive Director of South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, welcomed guests to the stormwater training

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Karen Kreis lives in Midlothian, Illinois—a southwest suburb—where she sees flooding with startling regularity. The high school football field, the used car lot, businesses on Kolmar Avenue, backyards completely inundated with flood waters time and again.

Karen Kreis' "Team Floodlothian" t-shirt promotes the citizen-led group founded by Helen Lekavich in order to address chronic flooding in Midlothian

It was other Midlothian residents most devastated by urban flooding who took matters into their own hands. A citizen-led effort dubbed Team Floodlothian organized in order to address Midlothian’s chronic flooding. Started by Helen Lekavich and four others, the group rallied together—and reached out to Karen, a Village Trustee, for help to keep their community dry. Theirs is a story of persistence, grit and partnership.

The Floodlothian Midlothian team is one of a growing group of communities, nonprofits, agencies and individuals taking action to #EndCalumetFlooding. Known as the Calumet region given its proximity to Lake Calumet and the Little Calumet River, this area encompasses numerous neighborhoods on the south side of the City of Chicago as well as 37 other suburban municipalities.

To foster awareness of the many ongoing stormwater management initiatives in the Calumet region, the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative (the CSC) was formed in 2014, and you guessed it, Midlothian is one of many active members. The CSC—facilitated by MPC—has been meeting monthly ever since.

On Friday, March 9, in partnership with member organizations Delta Institute and the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA), the CSC held its first-ever on-the-ground training in the Calumet region pulled together by the CSC  for local practitioners working to implement stormwater solutions in their community.

The goal of the training was to create a space for new partnerships to form while showcasing the tools and resources created by the CSC that can help communities with planning stormwater infrastructure and moving projects into implementation.

Here are the topics that the CSC-member presenters covered at the stormwater training:

  • Karen Kreis, Trustee for the Village of Midlothian, recapped the importance of partnerships and collaboration to Floodlothian Midlothian’s success in her opening remarks. See the full presentation slides here.
  • Anjulie Cheema from engineering firm CH2M and Jose Alarcon from SSMMA explained how a new free mapping viewer tool can help make useful data for stormwater planning easily accessible to all. See the full presentation slides here.
  • Ann Gray from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) talked about the District’s Geographical Information System Assistance offering Global Positioning System (GPS) units and related software at no cost to municipalities to provide sewer system owners resources to begin mapping their sewer systems in GIS or improve their existing sewer system map. See the full presentation slides here.
  • MPC is both a member and facilitator of the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative, a diverse group dedicated to alleviating urban flooding

    Eve Pytel from nonprofit Delta Institute walked through their practical toolkit which features scalable tools and design templates to provide users with a clearer understanding of how to identify opportunities for green infrastructure, which treatments are most suitable for a specific site or purpose, and how to make informed decisions based on reasonable cost estimates. See the full presentation slides here.
  • Nate Wolf from MWRD reviewed details from the District’s Technical Guidance Manual to the Watershed Management Ordinance (WMO). In this manual are guidance documents and standards related to green infrastructure and other stormwater management controls which communities can refer to for obtaining compliance with the WMO. See the full presentation slides here.
  • Ben Shorofsky from Delta Institute shared keys to success with green infrastructure procurement, planning and design with maintenance in mind, and ensuring proper execution of projects for the long-term. See the full presentation slides here.
  • Jim Van Der Kloot from US Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 presented case studies from Gary, Indiana of combining commercial and residential demolition projects with green infrastructure and re-entry job training, and the blend of financing identified for such efforts. See the full presentation slides here.
  • Moira Zellner from the University of Illinois at Chicago reviewed a participatory modeling approach that simulates different scenarios to help residents discuss the trade-offs in deciding where to place what kind of green infrastructure, covering such topics as cost effectiveness, spatial constraints and diverse resident preferences. See the full presentation slides here.
  • Rebeca Bell from Bluestem Communications highlighted tactics for sustained engagement and thoughtful communications strategies that are key to understanding communities, and editable communications tools available for free. See the full presentation slides here.
  • Mollie Dowling and Julia Plumb from OAI/High Bridge, a workforce development organization, shared about recent successes in Pullman, Blue Island and Midlothian in green infrastructure project installation and maintenance, where crew members are from the neighborhoods where the projects take place. This is the model of High Bridge, OAI’s first social enterprise company specializing in low-cost, high-performance green infrastructure. See the full presentation slides here.

    The Stormwater Data Mapping Viewer, a new interactive tool created by Calumet Stormwater Collaborative members

Even more resources and funding opportunities

Surrounding the perimeter of the training room were CSC members eager to talk one-on-one with attendees about a suite of additional materials made available thanks to the efforts of the CSC. Here is a snapshot:

Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Section 319 Water Pollution Control Grant Program. MPC partnered with Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. and MWRD to develop water quality-focused materials for two Calumet-area watershed plans in Cook County: the Cal-Sag Channel watershed (IL_H-01) and the Little Calumet River watershed (IL_HB-01). These materials are supplemental to the Detailed Watershed Plans (DWPs) previously developed by MWRD which have a focus on flooding.

Communities and other stakeholders in these watersheds are now eligible to apply to Illinois EPA’s Section 319 Grant Program, with an application deadline of August 1, 2018. Communities interested in applying are encouraged to seek out more information and get pre-qualified through the State grants portal. The watershed plan documents are posted on MWRD website and MPC Website. For more information view this brochure.

Stormwater Management Resources Repository. The CSC Planning and Policy Work Group developed a stormwater repository which compiles curated resources that can help Calumet communities plan, pay for, and implement effective stormwater management strategies. The resources are divided into seven themes: 1) data and tools, 2) design and implementation, 3) education and engagement, 4) funding and financing, 5) planning, 6) policies and regulations, and 7) training and maintenance.

Calumet Stormwater Collaborative Member Services. The CSC works to share knowledge, coordinate and deploy interventions at appropriate scales. Members of the CSC work to coordinate across boundaries and jurisdictions to solve regional stormwater and flooding challenges. This brochure created by the CSC Education and Engagement Work Group is a snapshot of how members engage with communities and partners throughout the Calumet region.

More how-to details, technical specs and funding options are in the hands of local municipal stakeholders who left the training energized to take their stormwater planning to the next level!

Since stormwater doesn’t obey municipal boundaries, cross-jurisdictional collaboration is important. Karen from Midlothian summed it up nicely: do the networking to form the partnerships. That is the key to getting success going in communities wanting to tackle complex issues like flooding.

The first Friday of every month—at a Calumet Stormwater Collaborative meeting—is a great place to start.

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