Illinois is seeing first-hand the havoc flooding creates for people in Northern Illinois. Four counties have been declared disaster areas as the Fox River, Des Plaines River, Chain of Lakes and other waterways have wiped out property and infrastructure.
The state of Illinois has the largest collection of inland bodies of water and rivers in the continental United States. Twelve percent of surface in Illinois is mapped as a flood plain. My 38th Senate District, which stretches from Bureau County on the west to Will County on the east, has about 130 miles worth of river frontage, one of the most in the state. Ottawa alone is the watershed for 12,000 square miles.
Flooding is serious in Illinois, and it requires a serious approach to deal with it.
Like Northern Illinois right now, in 2013, communities I represent along the Illinois and Fox rivers also lived the hardships that comes with severe flooding. Many neighborhoods, businesses and infrastructure were destroyed. The Morris Hospital had to close. Thousands of lives were impacted; property was lost; tokens of precious memories were gone forever; and infrastructure had to be rebuilt. That flood cost LaSalle and Grundy counties alone more than $150 million.
That’s why after that flood, my office teamed up with local leaders and started the Illinois Valley Flood Resiliency Alliance (IVFRA). The IVFRA brings communities, local governments and emergency personnel together as one unit to prepare for and battle floods. It includes LaSalle, Grundy, Bureau, and Putnam counties.
The IVFRA meets four times a year and has resiliency plans in place for the region. Cities in my district have implemented new flood-related ordinances that are helping keep water away from homes, schools and businesses. There are also now 24 new certified floodplain managers in my district.
The IVFRA has received statewide and national attention. It’s is also now approved as a continuing education credit for certified floodplain managers.
In April, our area saw rising rivers and streams after heavy rainfall. However, after coordinating with members of our Illinois Valley Flood Resiliency Alliance, the impact was minimal. How governments respond upstream and downstream impacts other communities along the waterway. So, being on the same page as a region has made a big difference.
The IVFRA is truly a model other regions of the state and the country should adopt. It has given our communities a better chance at staying dry.
Illinois State Sen. Sue Rezin, representing Bureau, Grundy, LaSalle, Kendall, Livingston, Putnam and Will counties