Winter storm warning posted for area on Monday

Cherry Creek at Chayes Park
Drive, the dividing line between
Homewood and Flossmoor.
by Tom Houlihan/HF Chronicle)

Renovations to Cherry Creek adjacent to Homewood-Flossmoor High School are expected to bring relief from flooding to more than a dozen homeowners.

Under the project, spearheaded by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), a pipe on H-F property will be enlarged, eliminating a Cherry Creek “choke point” that’s caused flooding in recent years. Culverts along Governors Highway will also be rebuilt and a water retention area behind Calvary Assembly of God Church, north of H-F, will be constructed.

At the Jan. 19 meeting, Flossmoor Village Board members are expected to sign an intergovernmental agreement with MWRD and H-F District 233. According to the agreement, the village and school district will maintain the improvements after MWRD completes the project, which is expected to cost more than $3 million. MWRD is picking up nearly 100 percent of project cost, said Flossmoor Public Works Director John Brunke.

H-F school board members approved the intergovernmental agreement at the Nov. 17 meeting. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), which has jurisdiction over Governors Highway, is also a partner in the project, Brunke said.

Once the agreement has been signed, MWRD will complete some property acquisition along Cherry Creek north of the high school property. Brunke said construction will probably start this summer and is likely to take an entire year. MWRD documents list the official completion date as Dec. 31, 2017, he said.

“We are very fortunate to be part of this project,“ Brunke said. “MWRD is taking care of the engineering and construction and it’s going to mean a real benefit for the village and high school.”

In 2012, MWRD came up with a list of 50 possible watershed projects designed to prevent flooding throughout the Chicago area, Brunke said. The Cherry Creek project was chosen, largely because it has such a favorable cost-to-benefit ratio.

From the west, Cherry Creek winds through Coyote Run Golf Course, crosses Kedzie Avenue and enters the high school property near the H-F Ice Arena. Much of the creek on high school grounds was diverted to underground pipes years ago. The creek eventually flows into the high school’s detention pond, commonly known as the “Bio Pond.” From there, the creek flows east toward Governors Highway via a pipe that is between 18 and 24 inches in diameter.

That pipe is the cause of the creek’s choke point, leading to flooding in homes on both sides of Governors Highway, Brunke said. During the construction project, it is to be replaced with a 48-inch pipe. Meanwhile, culverts on both the east and west sides of Governors Highway are to be enlarged and the new water retention area will be built behind the church. Brunke said a smaller retention pond near Monterey Drive and Sequoia Lane will remain in operation. As Cherry Creek moves north into Homewood, the floodplain configuration will be narrower after the improvements are completed.

Sixteen Flossmoor homes are currently located on floodplains designated by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), Village Manager Bridget Wachtel said. On the east side of Governors Highway, the homes are on Braemar Road. On the west side, they are on Imperial Court and Embassy Row.

Homeowners on the FEMA floodplain must currently buy flood insurance, which Wachtel called “very costly.”  Once the Cherry Creek project has been completed, MWRD will petition FEMA to have those homes taken off the floodplain map, she said.

Flossmoor village board members were “adamant” that the project would lead to a new FEMA map showing that the homes are no longer on the floodplain, Wachtel said.

“This is a great project for Flossmoor,” she said. “It is a real benefit to us if we can get 16 homes off the floodplain map.”

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