Guest Column: Better road, subdivision planning needed to avoid flooding

June 13, 2012

By Paul Gorski

Last week’s Rock River Times article “Rock River fish kill significant from 2009 fatal train wreck” (June 6-12 issue) by Leslie Brefeld serves to highlight why local developers, municipalities and the county need to pay more attention to flood water control. Brefeld notes that “The federal investigation also reported failure in some of the retention ponds nearby the track washout.”

North of that track washout, Cherry Valley Township residents at the corner of Mulford and Harrison have complained for years about how simple rains cause torrents of water to stream through their neighborhood, flooding their yards and homes.

The flooding is aggravated by the pumping of groundwater from the nearby quarry that saturates nearby soil.

The problems extend even farther north. The situation has become so bad in that region that local residents and environmental groups formed a coalition, Friends of Madigan Creek (www.madigancreek.org/), to bring attention to the problem and research solutions.

Then, there’s a neighborhood, just on the edge of Rockford and unincorporated Cherry Valley Township where the berm separating the water retention area of the newer neighborhood to the north, which is in Rockford, has worn down.

Storm water pours over the berm into the yards to the south in Cherry Valley Township. Since the city subdivision was developed, residents to the south have also had to deal with high groundwater levels and frequent street flooding. Some residents have sump pumps running 24 hours a day, seven days a week just to keep their basements dry.

In both cases of neighborhood flooding, runoff from sources in the city of Rockford is contributing to flooding areas in unincorporated Winnebago County. This isn’t illegal, though, and water will flow to the nearest lowest point. However, we need better road and subdivision planning as not to simply divert water from one neighborhood to another without considering the impact on all residents. In many cases, we simply need to plan for more green space, as soil acts as a sponge and retains water. We’ve had an extremely dry spring, but it is hoped that won’t always be the case.

Paul Gorski is a Cherry Valley Township resident and a former Winnebago County Board member.

From the June 13-19, 2012, issue

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