The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) wants to hear from residents of Austin, West Garfield Park and Humboldt Park community areas about any flooding issues they may be experiencing, so that the agency can develop a plan to address it. 

The MWRD treats wastewater and works to reduce flooding throughout Chicago and suburban Cook County. Since 2016, it has been working on stormwater master plans for different parts of the county, with the goal of creating a list of projects that could address the issues on the ground and have community support. 

The MWRD is looking to complete the study for the West Side community areas by January 2022, with the goal of presenting recommendations to the city later that year. 

In the meantime, community outreach representatives for the project, such as Tyrail Williams, have been giving presentations to the public about the MWRD’s plans. Williams presented during a community meeting hosted by Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) on July 21. 

According to MWRD spokesperson Allison Fore, the flooding study kicked off at the start of this year. During the first half of the year, the MWRD talked to city officials and aldermen within the study area. 

The second half of the year focused on reaching out to residents through several venues, including the presentations like the July 21 presentation. 

Fore said that they would focus on measures that “alleviate localized flooding,” while the city would work on larger projects, such as widening underground pipes and expanding sewers.

During his presentation, Williams said that the plan would identify projects designed to reduce water back-ups that cause flooding in basements and keep the water off the streets, as well as projects that would be “resilient” in the face of flooding, among other priorities. The projects would also need to have the support of residents. 

Fore said that, while MWRD will develop the plan, it will be up to the city to decide if they want to pursue it, either on their own or in partnership with the water district. Williams said that the costs of the projects would come from both the MWRD and the city. 

Fore said that the plan would most likely include projects that temporarily store rainwater before releasing it into the sewers to avoid overwhelming the pipes and reduce flooding. That may include “local rain gardens, green alleys [and] green roofs,” along with other water detention measures on vacant lots. Williams mentioned stormwater planters and curb extensions on major streets, which would serve a similar function while also improving the streetscape. 

Williams said that MWRD wanted to avoid the situation where residents have no idea the study is happening until the results are released, so they are trying to get the word out to as many West Siders as possible. 

He said that he would be happy to speak to “as many block clubs as possible.” Fore said that the study will be presented to the city “in the early 2022.”

Residents wishing to give their input can email Williams at tyrail4@yahoo.com. For more information about these and other MWRD stormwater projects, visit mwrd.org/stormwater-management-1