1. Review of April 2013 flood event and discussion of Village’s role in future Des Plaines River flooding incidents.
Mr. Muetz stated staff would review the April 2013 flood event, including some background information, the timeline, actions taken, areas where improvements are needed, the costs incurred and the role of the Village going forward.
Village Engineer Drabicki provided the Board statistical information regarding a 100 year flood vs. a 10 year flood. He stated these labels are linked to probabilities. He continued to distinguish between rain events and flood events. He stated storm sewers are built to handle a 10 year rain event. This is based on probabilities and financial factors. He continued to say in 2000 the flood elevation increased by approximately 2 feet. This resulted in the 1986 flood no longer being classified as a 100 year event. It now is considered a probability of 7% to 8%.
Mr. Drabicki then reviewed the rain gauge and its correlation to its impact on Gurnee. He noted there is a large gap between the 1986 flood and the 100 event height of 14.1 feet. He stated since this has not happened yet, the Village does not know the impact. He continued by reviewing precipitation data that resulted in the April 2013 event. He stated the Village received at 4 inches of rain in a 24 hour period. This would be considered a 10% rain event. Since that is what the Village’s piping system is design for, there was anticipated localized flooding.
Mr. Drabicki then focused on progress and regulatory changes over the past 10 years. This included removing structures in the impacted area and the raising of Washington Street. These efforts have helped reduce the Village’s flood response efforts. He continued to say the Biggert Waters Reform Act of 2012 had a big impact on the national flood insurance program. He said the result is flood insurance rates will dramatically increase as the government is reducing subsidies. In summary, the Act is encouraging property owners to either elevate or relocate from special flood hazard areas.
Mr. Muetz then reviewed a day by day summary of the flood event. This covered the time period from Monday, April 15th through Friday, May 3rd. He started off by reviewing the graph from the Route 120 river gauge. He stated that while the river forecast did not show a flood, the precipitation forecast did. As a result, the Village began flood-fighting efforts. This included coordinating with other taxing bodies, hauling in supplies and putting out a call for volunteers. On April 17th and 18th, the major efforts to protect structures took place. This included volunteers working to fill sandbags, private contractors setting jersey walls and Navy volunteers working to place sandbags. This also marked the start of official road closures due to flood waters. He stated the river crested at 11.2 feet on Saturday, April 20th. Following that, the river started to slowly recede. The week of April 29th, staff shifted its efforts to clean-up. This included sandbag removal and bringing dumpsters into the impacted area. On May 3rd, the jersey walls were removed.
Management Analyst Jensen reviewed the Village’s public information efforts. He stated the primary objective was to communicate the Village is open and providing all core services. He continued to say that the message was tailored for the different audiences the Village had to address including those directly impacted, the local public, the media and Village employees and external partners. During the event, the Village took advantage of numerous communication mediums. The feedback received both internally and externally was that public information efforts were very effective and appreciated during this event.
Deputy Chief Kavanagh then discussed how this flood was different then prior events. This included forecast accuracy, localized flooding before riverine flooding, not having to protect Gurnee Grade School and the utilization of jersey walls in lieu of sandbags. The combination of not having to protect Gurnee Grade School and using the jersey walls resulted in about 70,000 less sandbags being used.
Deputy Chief Kavanagh then reviewed the May 9th staff debriefing and its results. Overall, staff involved thought teamwork and coordination across Departments worked very well. In addition, technology and communication efforts greatly improved compared to past efforts. He stated staff did identify some areas of improvement, including better organizing volunteers, securing more road closure equipment and better follow-up between the Emergency Operations Center and field personnel.
He continued by reviewing the Declaration of a Disaster and reimbursement process. The Declaration process starts at the local level and eventually can work its way up to the President. He stated the initial damage assessment was $224,000. Based on discussion with FEMA, this was then reduced to approximately $200,000. Based on the expense incurred across the County and State, the Village is qualified to recoup 75% of eligible expenses from the federal government. The Village estimates it incurred $260,838 worth of expenses. This includes all man power, equipment, supplies and contractor costs.
The presentation concluded with Mr. Muetz discussing the Village’s role going forward. He stated the Village has a wide degree of assistance it can provide, from a full service response as it currently does to a more “every property for itself” approach, with a large array of options in between. He stated staff is not making a recommendation, but rather wants to be able to prepare accordingly. If the “full service” response is the desire, then staff can develop budgets as such. He stated any change in the level of service should be communicated to those in the impacted area.
Mayor Kovarik asked how many structures were protected.
Staff responded approximately 40.
Mayor Kovarik then asked about the response from residential vs. commercial properties.
Mr. Muetz stated that some of the commercial tenants weren’t adequately prepared to keep seepage out of their structures. This resulted in them abandoning the buildings, despite the Village expending the labor and securing jersey walls for them.
Trustee Balmes asked what the impact of the rain that went south of the Village would have had.
Mr. Drabicki stated we were very fortunate that did not hit the Village as it would have had significant impacts. He reiterated that the jersey walls do have limitations and would be ineffective in protecting against a 100 year event.
Trustee Balmes then asked about the three homes on Emerald Avenue that are currently in process to be purchased.
Mr. Ziegler stated that the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission (SMC) is working to find additional funding to purchase all four at once, but at the current time only three are in the process. He stated it’s important to remember it’s a voluntary program; the Village will not force residents to accept the offer and leave.
Trustee Ross asked for an update on the timeline for making offer to the residents on Emerald Avenue.
Mr. Drabicki provided an update.
Trustee Wilson asked if an informational packet regarding flooding could be created.
Mr. Muetz stated Gurnee Community Church has offered to assist in educating residents in the area.
Trustee Wilson then asked for clarification regarding the M.E.S.S. canteen.
Deputy Chief Kavanagh provided clarification that the food is available for all volunteers.
Trustee Garner stated his dilemma is what the Village’s role is to those that choose to live in the floodway. He continued to state the response is very expensive, but there should be some sort of threshold. He also questioned if the Village could be held liable if it didn’t respond.
Trustee Hood reiterated Trustee Garner’s concern as to where the Village draws the line.
Trustee Garner then asked why they raised the flood level 2 feet.
Mr. Drabicki stated it was based on more accurate data. He continued to say statistically the Village will eventually receive a rainfall it cannot protect structures from. He stated working to remove structures he believes is the best course of action to take to address the response issue long-term.
Trustee Wilson suggested staff work to set a deadline and get a commitment from those in the impacted area during the next event. If they cannot commitment they will work to build upon the Village’s assistance, then the Village may not be able to help them protect their structure. The Village should not expend resources to protect a structure that is going to be abandoned.
Mr. Muetz stated staff has received some feedback and will take it back to discuss internally.
Mayor Kovarik opened the floor to the public.
Mr. Hiett provided the Board some personal insight and observations from the April 2013 event. This included how jersey walls were set and the flow of water over Grand Avenue.