Mitigating Flood Damage in the Water-soaked City of Des Plaines, IL

by Sophiya Soltys for SUST 210

The city of Des Plaines, Illinois, was named after the Des Plaines River, but little was known about what the namesake would imply. As of 2007, Des Plaines experienced 15 major floods in 60 years. By 2014, the number had increased to at least 20. Flooding has become such a major issue that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has offered to buy out homes that regularly get flooded by the river.

Flooding in Des Plaines IL (S. Soltys)

Flooding in 2014, Des Plaines IL (S. Soltys)

The Des Plaines City Council along with the Army Corps of Engineers came up with a strategy in the early 2000s to help the major flood zones. These are the zones that housed businesses that were suffocated by the flooding river and eventually could not get a gasp of air. The Levee 50 Project was a success in helping those zones and eliminated flooding in Downtown Des Plaines.

However there is much more work left ahead. Flooding along Des Plaines River Road is an even bigger issue. Between Algonquin Road south to Touhy Avenue, the river floods at least biannually. This means that River Road is closed until the river cleanup is complete; in addition, river water seeps into the river adjacent streets. I happen to live on one of those streets, and every time the river floods, I see at least one person traveling by canoe because using a car is out of the question.

Des Plaines in 2013 (S. Soltys)

Des Plaines in 2013 (S. Soltys)

This also means that individuals cannot get to work or to school, which hurts both the local economy and paralyzes the community. The flooding water tears down power lines, damages property, and can leave residents without power or transportation for days.

The projects initiated in the early 2000s did help out some Des Plaines residents, but in no way did they eliminate flooding in the outlying areas of Des Plaines. It is most definitely time for the City to start planning some new anti-flooding projects.

Abandoned cars in Des Plaines, 2012 (S. Soltys)

Abandoned cars in Des Plaines, 2012 (S. Soltys)

Each week during the Fall 2014 semester, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 210 Sustainable Future and SUST 240 Waste classes at Roosevelt University have contributed blog posts on urban and suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

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About Suburban Sustainability

Founder and editor of the Schaumburg's Sustainability Future social media project (est. Earth Day, 2011)
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