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Kane drainage projects improve flooding issues, water officials say

GENEVA – While heavy April rains brought flooding in many areas of Kane County, county officials believe projects undertaken to improve drainage in dozens of locations throughout the county kept the worst of the damage at bay.

Wednesday, officials with the Kane County Department of Water Resources told members of the Kane County Board’s Development Committee that more than $4 million in projects coordinated by the county government in the past three years have helped reduce the severity of flooding in the county.

For years, Kane County has worked to reduce flooding issues in established neighborhoods in unincorporated areas of the county, said Paul Schuch, director of the Water Resources department.

Many of the neighborhoods that have been particularly plagued through the years were built in the 1960s or 1970s when stormwater drainage standards were not nearly as stringent, he said.

However, as development has increased, heavy rains often led to flooding in streets, basements and even on the ground level of some homes.

To reduce the flooding issues, the county launched a cost-sharing program in the past decade in which the county spends money it obtains from its revenue agreement with the Grand Victoria riverboat casino and residents of those neighborhoods agree to pay more in property taxes to the county to pay for the drainage work under a so-called special service area tax levy.

When the program launched in 2004, it ran on “a shoestring budget,” Schuch said.

But in recent years, the program has expanded greatly, Shuch said.

Jodie Wollnik, an engineer with the Water Resources Department, said the county has completed 22 such projects at sites scattered throughout Kane County, and has an additional 17 projects underway in the budget for 2013.

Wollnik said the heavy April rains provided the first real test for many of the drainage projects.

And she said the projects aced the test, greatly reducing issues with water in the project areas.

As proof, she displayed a collage of photos of previous flooding from the project areas, but opted not to show any pictures of those same areas from this year’s flooding.

“We didn’t want to go out and take pictures of dry ground,” Wollnik said. 

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