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Local News

Joliet plans for floodwall it doesn't really want

The Des Plaines River converges with the I&M Canal on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, north of the Ruby Street Bridge in Joliet, Ill.
The Des Plaines River converges with the I&M Canal on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, north of the Ruby Street Bridge in Joliet, Ill.

The Army Corps of Engineers is helping on flood wall plans that Joliet hopes will remove a newly created flood plain in the downtown area.

The Joliet City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a joint project with the Corps to determine the chances that the Des Plaines River could flood into downtown.

City officials hope Corps assistance could lead to future financial assistance in building a flood wall and removing the downtown area from the floodplain.

“The Army Corps of Engineers is going to assist in the initial study and let us know if it will mean construction money from the Corps,” said Joliet Public Works Director James Trizna.

A consultant to the city two years ago estimated the cost of the levee system at least at
$2 million, although officials believe it will be higher.

Joliet for 10 years tried to fight the flood plain designation that was drawn into Federal Emergency Management Agency maps in February despite the city’s case that the area never flooded.

The city now is planning to build a flood wall in an attempt to remove the flood plain
designation, which raises insurance rates and can restrict development in the affected area.

“We don’t have much choice,” Trizna said. “We want to get those areas removed [from the map].”

The FEMA flood plain map is based on the possibility of a breach in the embankment along the east side of the
Illinois & Michigan Canal as
it connects with the Des Plaines River north of Ruby Street.

The joint study with Corps is aimed at determining the potential risks of a breach in the embankment. The federal agency will pay half the costs of the $188,000 study.

The flood plain covers parts but not all of downtown.
It extends into areas east and south of downtown. About 700 properties are in the flood plain.

The city estimates it will take another two to three years to build a flood wall or levee system that would satisfy FEMA and remove the flood plain designation.

Before starting construction, the city wants FEMA certification that the flood wall or levee system will remove downtown from the flood plain.

Corps assistance should help in designing a system that meets FEMA standards, Trizna said.

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