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Council Action

Council Action Summaries Regarding Stormwater Mitigation

Since the July 22-23, 2011 flood event, the Village has made significant progress towards meaningful flood risk reduction for residents. To view a compilation of documents pertaining to stormwater mitigation efforts, please visit the Stormwater Archive.Cenotaph_-_best


August 7, 2018.  The Village Council, after devoting the June Study Session to a discussion about a study of the Village's stormwater regulations, adopted Ordinance MC-5-2018, reinstating stormwater protections in the flood plain.   

Click here to see the Ordinance.  

June 12, 2018.  The Village Council heard the results of an evaluation of Winnetka's stormwater regulations.  The purpose of the stormwater regulation evaluation was to: (i) ensure compliance with Federal, State, and County regulations; (ii) ensure that Winnetka’s regulations reflect current best stormwater management practices; and (iii) compare Winnetka’s regulations with those of other local area municipalities and counties.  After hearing the study's results and discussing the recommendations, the Council approved adopting several recommendations, and studying further the recommendation pertaining to development of a program to promote best management practices on individual properties.

Click here to see the agenda materials.  Click here to read the minutes of the meeting.  Click here to watch video of the meeting.

August 1, 2017.  Public Works Director and Village Engineer Steve Saunders briefly reviewed the process leading up to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC).  After Council discussion and full audience participation, the Village Council voted unanimously to approve the MOU and move ahead with engineering tasks and intergovernmental negotiations with other local agency stakeholders.

Several FPCC issues are addressed in the MOU: (i) the wetlands detention project can only be a part of an overall flood reduction program, not the only solution; (ii) stormwater quality must be improved before it is released to FPCC property; (iii) tree removal should be minimized, and the Village must comply with FPCC tree mitigation and license fees; (iv) Winnetka will assume long-term maintenance of the project; and (v) Winnetka will provide off-site benefits to further the goals of the FPCC.

The original proposal for the wetlands project has been revised over the course of the FPCC negotiations, resulting in an iteration that costs less than the original plan, removes fewer trees, and is more in keeping with FPCC goals.  The MOU provides agreement on the following key points:  (i) the wetland project aligns with FPCC goals and benefits both Winnetka and the FPCC; (ii) the size and scope of the project is fixed, along with the preliminary design; (iii) a water quality program is specified to clean the stormwater currently being sent through the FPCC land to the Skokie River; (iv) all fees associated for the project are fixed; and (v) a long-term maintenance plan is established, to be administered by Winnetka.

Now that the Village has approved the MOU, discussions about other potential stormwater storage projects can begin with Winnetka schools and parks – who have already demonstrated their commitment with letters of support for the MOU.  Most importantly, the Village can start work on engineering tasks without fear that these dollars are wasted on a project that will never be approved.

To see the agenda report, click here.
To see Mr. Saunders’ presentation, click here.

April 6, 2017.  Trustee Chris Rintz provided an update on recent progress in negotiations with the Cook County Forest Preserve District (CCFPD) regarding a stormwater detention project on Forest Preserve land.  He explained that Strand Associates has been refining its original project Vision in order to reduce the scope of required permit fees.  Strand developed an alternative plan that reduced fees from the original $18 million to approximately $5 million.  This alternate plan relies on mitigation for tree replacement fees in a portion of the property that is periodically water-logged and where it is difficult for trees to thrive.  Upon review of this latest plan, the CCFPD communicated that while it understands the logic of the requesting relief in this area, it is reluctant to make an exception to its tree ordinance that could set a precedent and impact future proposals.

Trustee Rintz explained that Strand proceeded to develop a third proposal that further reduced the number of trees that would need replacing, which was sent to the CCFPD for review.  Based on this latest iteration of the proposed detention project, the Village has received approval from the CCFPD to submit a full proposal.  Strand is developing the technical information needed to submit the final plan, which Trustee Rintz predicts will be more warmly regarded by advocacy groups such as Open Lands and Friends of the Forest Preserve.

Finally, Trustee Rintz noted that the Village hopes to develop a draft Memorandum of Understanding between Winnetka and the CCFPD for community discussions, and he expressed optimism that the plan will gain widespread support.

February 7, 2017.  Trustee Chris Rintz updated the Council and community about progress in the stormwater negotiations with the Cook County Forest Preserve District (CCFPD), New Trier Township High School (NTTHS), and Winnetka Park District (WPD). 

Trustee Rintz conveyed that the overall tenor of conversations is positive, and CCFPD is very willing to cooperate with the Village on a workable stormwater project their property.  Engineering staff for CCFPD and Winnetka are working to come to an understanding of where, when and how measurements for pollutants would take place, and which contaminants would be included in the testing.  The Village is resolute on the issue of ensuring that the quality of the water going to the Skokie River (River) will be the best it can possibly be.  While the stormwater currently flowing to the River is not treated, the Village wants to implement a project that is environmentally sensitive and improves future water quality.

Keeping concerns about Crow Island Woods in mind, as well as apprehensions about Duke Child’s Field, underground storage has taken on a new significance, and discussions with the Board Presidents of WPD and NTTHS have been encouraging.  Both bodies have indicated a desire to work with the Village on its stormwater detention goals.

Trustee Rintz explained that during recent discussions, the magnitude of permit fees has become apparent, and fees for tree replacement alone could exceed the cost of the entire CCFPD project.  It is clear that Strand’s Final Concept Vision requires modifications and tradeoffs to accommodate the reality of the permit fees, which are established by Ordinance, and cannot be waived.  The Village desires to minimize the area impacted by construction in order to reduce the cost of implementation, and thereby create more room in the budget for fees and permits.  An outcome of this negotiation process is that the CCFPD project is becoming more environmentally sensitive overall, leaving more of the area in its natural state.

Trustee Rintz continued that the Village wishes to maintain the Strand Concept Vision parameter of a 100-year storm protection level, to ensure Winnetka residents are being properly served.  Next steps are to continue the dialog with the CCFPD, get their reaction to some big-picture options that Strand is currently developing, and if there is concurrence on Strand’s direction, to move forward with a draft Memorandum of Understanding for Council discussion.  The goal is to arrive at a concept that doesn’t adversely impact Crow Island Woods and the NTTHS sport field, creating a win-win project that will receive broad support from the community. 

October 13, 2016:  Village Engineer and Public Works Director Steve Saunders explained that Strand Associates has completed an Early Action Study for the Stormwater Final Concept Vision presented in June.  An alternate phasing plan has also been completed, which allows for parallel coordination of projects while the Village works to procure an agreement with the Cook County Forest Preserve District (CCFPD) for a detention project on CCFPD property. 

Mike Waldron, Strand Associates Project Manager, said the Early Action Study revealed little effective relief can be provided in the watershed south of Willow Road until the necessary storage is secured.  However, there are a couple of early action opportunities for the watershed north of Willow Road.  If storage is provided under Duke Childs Field, the “tree streets” would experience significant relief for storms up to 10-year magnitude.  Relief from larger storms would again be contingent upon providing storage.  He also identified two areas for a pilot project in so-called “mitigation zones” which would still be at risk of flooding even with full implementation of the Final Concept Vision.

The Council discussed the downside of an early action project at Duke Childs Field in the event the CCFPD storage project does not come to fruition.  In that event, a much larger project would be required at Duke Childs to provide 100-year storm protection.  The issue of working on the Skokie Ditch was deliberated, and the Village Attorney was directed to research ownership and easement information.  After hearing public comment, including pleas for relief from homeowners, the Council directed Staff to begin immediate discussions with New Trier High School about the Duke Childs Field detention project, while also continuing negotiations with the CCFPD at a robust pace.  Meanwhile, at budget talks later this month, Staff will propose some solutions for the mitigation zones as well as green infrastructure projects for 2017.

To see the agenda materials, click here.    To see Strand’s presentation, click here.

August 16, 2016:  Village Engineer and Public Works Director Steve Saunders reported that his office has received approximately 40 inquiries about the Backflow Prevention Program, which the Council reinstated earlier this month.  Mr. Saunders recommended adding more funds for the program to ensure all interested homeowners will benefit from the program.  The Council unanimously approved the recommendation – adding an additional $50,000 to fully fund the program through the end of 2016.

The Council also considered extending the Backflow Prevention Program’s benefits retroactively to qualified homeowners who installed systems during the three years the program was defunded.  A vote was taken to retroactively reimburse the homeowners who had applications pending at the time the program was defunded.  Staff was directed to bring back information on how many people would qualify for retroactive cost-sharing, based on a search of building permit applications.

Finally, Manager Bahan announced that, based upon review of the 2015 building fee and building permit waiver resolutions, the waiver of permit fees for flood repairs, which was approved by the Council on August 2, also applies to installation of backflow prevention devices

  • To see the August 16 Backflow Prevention Program agenda report, click here.

August 2, 2016: Public Works Director/Village Engineer Steve Saunders reviewed events from the severe storms of July 23, 2016 that caused serious flooding in Winnetka.  The storms produced nearly five inches of rain over a six hour period.

Village crews responded to over 440 calls for service, dealing with tree damage, power outages, stranded motorists, street and basement flooding and alarms that were triggered by the storm.   Since the storm, the Village has been responding to resident inquiries and comments, collecting flood-damaged possessions, and cleaning or repairing flood-damaged infrastructure and equipment.

The Village created a map of flood debris piles to pinpoint the locations where flooding occurred, and a map detailing Winnetka’s sanitary system.  Mr. Saunders reported that recently completed stormwater projects functioned well during the storm, including the Northwest Winnetka improvements, Winnetka Avenue pump station enhancements, Ash Street pump station upgrade and Northeast Winnetka stormwater improvements.  None of the Village’s pump stations lost electrical power during or after the storm, and all functioned as designed.

Mr. Saunders noted that portions of the recent Northeast Winnetka improvements along Tower Road, Tower Manor and Old Green Bay Road, as well as the Lloyd Park outlet did reduce or eliminate flooding; however, there were a few properties in this area that were subject to overland flooding.  The Village is working to understand the factors which contributed to lingering flooding in these areas.

Mr. Saunders explained that sanitary sewer repairs were completed in eight sewer basins that experienced a high incidence of backups in the 2011 storm, but there were still a number of backups reported last week.  It is unclear at this time whether Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) sewer intercepts in Winnetka are surcharging and contributing to basement backups.  A regional inflow/infiltration study by the MWRD is anticipated to be released next month, and is expected to provide information to guide the Village’s efforts in remediating basement backups.

Mr. Saunders reported that Strand Associates Final Concept Report for Winnetka’s western drainage basins relies heavily on cooperation with the Cook County Forest Preserve District.  Since this process will necessarily take significant time, Strand is currently working to identify portions of improvements contained in the Final Concept Report that could be swiftly designed and implemented in a fashion that would bring faster relief to portions of the project area.  Their report is expected to be considered this fall, in time to consider any identified projects for funding in 2017.

Finally, the Village Council approved a measure that will assist homeowners with basement backups to implement backflow prevention strategies and also passed a Resolution eliminating building permit fees for storm-related repair work.  More information on these measures are on the homepage of the Village website under News.

  • To see the August 2 Stormwater Agenda Report, click here.
  • To see the August 2 PowerPoint presentation, click here.

June 7, 2016:  Strand Associates’ Project Manager, Mike Waldron, presented the Final Concept Report for the Stormwater Alternatives Study.  Mr. Waldron explained that when the Skokie Lagoons were built in the 1930’s, a levy system was put in to protect against the Skokie River flooding.  However, these levies also prevent water from the Village’s southwestern neighborhoods from draining naturally to the river – resulting in a “bathtub” condition wherein the area holds not only its own stormwater runoff, but runoff from higher elevations in the Village as well.

The Village has been seeking a solution to the pervasive flooding in this area for many years, and Strand’s study is the latest and most comprehensive effort to-date.  Mr. Waldron reviewed Strand’s watershed analysis, which resulted in a thorough list of stormwater management and flood reduction opportunities.  Following Council feedback in May, the opportunities were developed in a matrix as part of the Final Concept Report. He explained that opportunities deemed too costly or not feasible were ruled out, leaving a series of 15 practical and cost effective projects that meet Winnetka’s objectives and can be implemented in four phases, totaling $57,717,000:

  • Phase 1 Total: $23,578,000
  • Phase 2 Total: $16,380,000
  • Phase 3 Total: $4,675,000
  • Phase 4 Total: $13,084,000

The proposed solutions require collaboration with stakeholders whose goals are directly impacted by stormwater issues, and who will also benefit from the Village’s stormwater management efforts.  As the Council continues its discussion of the Stormwater Vision, it will be gathering input from citizens, public agencies integral to the Vision, and other interested parties.  The Village anticipates continued, broad community conversation on phasing, funding, and implementation steps.

May 10, 2016: Village Engineer and Public Works Director Steve Saunders provided a Village Council update on the Stormwater Alternatives Evaluation undertaken by Strand Associates beginning in late 2015. He reviewed the scope of Strand’s analysis and the extent of public engagement that has been performed. Having completed three significant phases of public participation, at the April Vision Phase Workshop, Strand outlined a Concept Stormwater Vision that meets the Village’s stated flood-control objectives. Strand’s cost estimate for the four-phase Vision is $57.7 million. Mr. Saunders stated that with the motto of leaving “no stone unturned,” there are parts of the Vision that need refinement, further discussion with stakeholders and landholders, and more definition before decisions can be made. He reiterated it is the Village’s goal to build as much consensus as possible around the Vision, and at this juncture, direction on potential next steps is needed.

Mr. Saunders reviewed the primary Vision concepts identified as requiring further development or discussion, including:

  • Phase 1- Cook County Forest Preserve District (CCFPD)
  • Phase 1- Duke Childs Field/New Trier High School
  • Phase 2- Crow Island Woods/Winnetka Park District
  • Phase 2- Sunset Road Stormwater Conveyance
  • Phase 3- Skokie-Washburne Athletic Field
  • Overall project design level and cost

Mr. Bob Smith, Executive Director of the Winnetka Park District, also spoke to the Council regarding the District’s willingness to participate in the engagement and master planning for Crow Island Woods. A concept proposal for this activity is included in the Agenda materials. The Council along with the public discussed the Vision and next steps with Mr. Saunders and Strand.

Ultimately the Council focused on a desire to pursue opportunities with the CCFPD, to determine if a likelihood of project implementation exists before pursuing other work on the initial Stormwater Vision.  The Council also directed Staff to work with Strand on preparing their draft Concept Report, associated with the current scope of work recently completed, for possible consideration on June 7.

March 17, 2016:  Village Engineer and Public Works Director Steve Saunders focused on the recent activity related to the Stormwater Alternatives Study, including Strand Associates' recent March 3 and 5 Exploration Phase Open Houses. He encouraged residents to review the summary and materials, and to submit comments via a comment form, all of which are available at: Strand is quickly building on the feedback received to-date in preparation for the Vision Phase Workshop that will be hosted at Washburne Middle School Theater on Tuesday, April 12 at 7:00 p.m. At that Workshop, he noted residents should expect to review the feedback to date, refined concepts of the study areas, and conceptual cost estimates. Mr. Saunders said Strand's final report to the Village Council is still anticipated to be delivered in late April.

February 16, 2016:  Village Engineer and Public Works Director Steve Saunders reported on the two Open Houses hosted in January by Strand Associates, the Village’s non-tunnel stormwater consultant.  Each Open House was attended by approximately 30 residents, and the feedback provided on flooding experiences affirmed the accuracy Strand’s updated hydraulic models.  At this time, Strand is working on development of preliminary alternatives which will be presented at two identical workshops on March 3 and March 5 at the Community House in Matz Hall.  Mr. Saunders stressed that the purpose of the March workshops is to gain community input on the level of acceptance of Strand’s conceptual models.  Strand will take insights gained in the March workshops to prepare for a last set of Village-wide interactive meetings in April.

In other stormwater news, a request for engineering proposals has been issued for the Boal Parkway neighborhood stormwater improvements.  The Village anticipates awarding an engineering contract in March, getting the project engineering finished in 2016, and beginning construction in 2017.

Finally, the Village anticipates that the Northwest Winnetka Stormwater Project will come in nearly $200,000 under budget; and the Sheridan Road Ravine stormwater improvements are expected to begin in the spring.  The Illinois Department of Transportation will reimburse Winnetka for any expenses incurred in conjunction with that project.

January 19, 2016:  Village Engineer and Public Works Director Steve Saunders announced that Strand Associates, the Village’s non-tunnel stormwater consultant, will hold two public open houses later in the week at Washburne School.  The events will provide residents an opportunity to hear about initial project accomplishments and share their insights and ideas with the study team.  Mr. Saunders noted that since construction season is over, there are no further updates since last month.

December 15, 2015: Village Engineer and Public Works Director Steve Saunders noted that the Northwest Winnetka project is 100% complete.  The final payment of $500,000 will be disbursed by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) as soon as paperwork is finalized, for a total of $2 million in funding for the project from the MWRD.

Mr. Saunders also reported that Strand Associates, the Village’s non-tunnel stormwater consultant, has confirmed that previous modeling studies for areas in southern and western Winnetka are generally accurate.  Strand will convert the older modeling to its more advanced XP-SWMM 2D platform to further refine the stormwater modeling to assist with its development of preliminary stormwater solution concepts.  Neighborhood meetings will be scheduled very early in January, with the aim of gathering public input and circulating knowledge in the form of a progress report on Strand’s findings and activities to-date.

November 17, 2015: Public Works Director and Village Engineer Steve Saunders reported that the list of active stormwater projects is getting shorter. The Northwest Winnetka project is essentially complete, and is expected to be closed out by the end of 2015. The Village has received half of its $2 million in funding assistance from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. In addition, Mr. Saunders anticipates final cost accounting for the project to come in slightly below cost projections.

Strand Associates continues to work diligently on its evaluation of stormwater management alternatives for western and southern Winnetka. Reviews of previous models and reports for this area are nearly complete. Interviews are scheduled with other agencies that control much of the open space in this area of the Village, to determine if a convergence of interests and goals can be found. The Village expects to hear a report from Strand later this year on its review of previous modeling, as well as results of the stakeholder interviews.

October 20, 2015: The Northwest Winnetka stormwater improvement project is nearing completion, with the contractor finishing sewer and landscaping work in the Forest Glen area. It is anticipated work will be completed by November 20. The project, which is partially funded by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, is likely to be completed on time and under the original awarded contract amount.
Additionally, Strand Associates has kicked-off their Stormwater Management Evaluation for Western and Southwestern Winnetka, looking at non-tunneling alternatives for flood risk reduction. They are currently reviewing existing data and modeling but will also soon begin stakeholder and Village Council input processes. This contract is anticipated for completion in April, 2016.

October 6, 2015: The Council adopted Resolution R-28-2015 approving a contract with Strand Associates, based upon deliberations at the September 15 Council Meeting. Strand is being engaged to complete an evaluation of stormwater solutions for western and southwestern Winnetka, based on their proposal submitted to the Village in August. Essential aspects of the project scope include:

  • Validate previous stormwater modeling and verify existing conditions;
  • Assess feasibility and cost of previously studied non-tunnel improvements;
  • Identify and develop other alternative solutions for these areas; and
  • Enhance public participation through meetings and/or workshops aimed at facilitating community discussion and consensus around possible solutions.

The project schedule calls for a final report to be delivered to the Council in April, 2016. At that time, the Village anticipates commencing a comprehensive public process that will not only offer data, but also further community input opportunities. The ultimate goal is to secure consensus around one or more recommended stormwater mitigation solutions.

September 15, 2015: The Stormwater Monthly Summary Report highlighted the following:

  • Continued progress on the Northwest Winnetka stormwater improvements, including completing all storm sewer work (except Forest Glen area);
  • Completion of the pond restoration;
  • Closing out of the Ash Street Pump Station project; and
  • “Shelving” of the Willow Road Stormwater Tunnel & Area Drainage Improvements (STADI) Project by the Council, effective September 1.

Prior to discontinuing the STADI project, Staff was asked to identify an engineering firm to revisit the feasibility and costs of previously identified tunnel alternatives, and in addition, to evaluate creative, cost-effective flood relief solutions for western and southern areas of Winnetka.  A team of Village representatives reviewed the 14 respondents proposing to perform this stormwater management study.  The firms were considered based on their understanding of the project and approach, firm experience, project team qualifications, schedule, and fees.  The Village interviewed four of the responding firms.

Ultimately, the Village team recommended Strand Associates—finding the firm presented a superior proposal and demonstrated the best qualifications for the desired project outcomes.  The recommendation was based on factors such as:

  • Thorough approach to evaluate the existing baseline data for modeling;
  • Watershed analysis to look at the identified study area and beyond;
  • Qualified project team with regional contacts and partnerships;
  • Strong experience in large scale green and grey infrastructure;
  • Holistic look at topography, as well as traditional and non-traditional flood controls; and
  • Outlined public participation phase with a goal to develop community-wide consensus.

Strand’s approach is detailed in both their proposal document and the meeting presentation, for a proposed fee of $256,050.  After extensive Council discussion and a dialogue with those in attendance at the meeting, the Council authorized Staff to negotiate a contract with Strand Associates to complete a “Stormwater Management Study: Evaluation of Stormwater Management Improvements and Alternatives for Western and Southwestern Winnetka.”  It is anticipated the Council will review this contract for approval at the October 6 Regular Meeting.

September 1, 2015:  V3 Companies presented its findings of a thorough cost review of the proposed Willow Road Stormwater Tunnel and Area Drainage Improvements (STADI) project.  That review indicated that fully designing and constructing the STADI project could cost up to $81.2 million, a 40 percent increase over previous estimates provided by MWH, the Village’s engineer for the project. 

Also, Director of Public Works Steve Saunders said that the Village has received 14 responses to an RFP seeking an engineering firm to study alternate, “non-tunneling” options to address Winnetka’s stormwater management and flooding challenges.  Those responses are currently under review and are anticipated to be discussed at the September 15 Village Council meeting.

Based largely on the cost review findings, Village Council members recommended to staff that it temporarily table ongoing efforts to submit permits for the STADI project or pursue a “value engineering” exercise to identify more affordable tunneling options.  Instead, staff will turn its focus toward identifying and recommending the qualified firm to study alternatives for western and southwestern Winnetka areas.

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