Heavy rains over the last few weeks have brought familiar issues to Wilmette homeowners, businesses and public buildings. Flooded basements, soaked carpets, sewage backups, insurance claims and the usual dumping of raw sewage into Lake Michigan come along with the thunderstorms, prompting the Village of Wilmette to issue yet another survey of residents concerning experiences with the flooding.
All good and well, but it is striking that storms once described as 50 year (2 percent) floods (the July 22 storm was a "100-year" flood, or a flood with a 1 percent chance of occurring) have been occuring with some regularity over the last 5 years, making them more like a flood with a 100 percent chance of occuring (at least each year since I have lived in Wilmette).
I am not convinced that another survey is going to do much of anything to prevent flooding. I have given some thought to the following broad view of storm management, and welcome any suggestions from Patch Readers:
- Ask the MWRD to declare the capacity of the holding and sewage processing facilities in Wilmette Harbor. That is, can we process 1 inch of rain in one hour? 7 inches in one hour etc.
- Ask the Village to make a standard goal of street drainage on an hourly basis, at similar rates.
- (and most importantly) Hold the Village and MWRD accountable for maintaining an effective drainage system based on some measurable goals.
#3 above might be pretty tough.There would need to be regular maintenance, systematic reporting and (occasional) round the clock operations at the MWRD and Wilmette Public Works. But it seems irresponsible to leave the Wilmette Locks operations unstaffed during major thunderstorms, waiting for a panic to trigger sewage dumping into Lake Michigan....or to have completely plugged combined sewers not being cleaned out until AFTER they back up into Wilmette basements.
There is every reason in the modern era that we live in, to demand a basic level of clean drinking water, dry basements and flood-free streets. There is a significant downward grade from at least Ridge Avenue to Lake Michigan, making Wilmette at least capable of being dried out using drainage tile, holding facilities and the existing North Shore Canal.
Rather than another survey, I think it is time to hold officials at our (really expensive) drainage districts responsible for keeping sewage out of our houses, out of Lake Michigan, and providing a sensible and safe response to the thunderstorms which occur in our Village.