Officials with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Village of Buffalo Grove, Village of Wheeling, and Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD) held a grand opening ceremony on a project that alleviates flooding while improving public recreation spaces at Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve.
The project expanded the Buffalo Creek Reservoir to store an additional 58.6 million gallons and relieve area flooding. Construction removed 107 structures from flooding impacts. More than 2,000 structures along Buffalo Creek and the main stem of the Des Plaines River received flood reduction benefit from the project.
Through a collaborative process with the LCFPD and Buffalo Grove, the project design incorporated LCFPD’s planned improvements while offering increased stormwater protection for Buffalo Grove and surrounding communities. The project incorporated other aesthetic and environmental enhancements: wetlands were created and restored; hundreds of new trees and shrubs were planted; upland prairie, west of Schaeffer Road, was restored; two tributaries entering the reservoir were restored while one tributary was stabilized. Public access improvements include new pedestrian boardwalks, raised trails, and an expanded parking lot.
“Flooding doesn’t recognize boundaries, so it made economic sense to work with these partners so that residents living nearby receive stormwater management benefits and can enjoy the Lake County Forest Preserves as an amenity,” said MWRD President Kari K. Steele.
Public access improvements include new pedestrian boardwalks, raised trails, and an expanded parking lot. The most recent public access improvements include the addition of 1.7 miles of trails, seven new boardwalks, two scenic overlooks and 39 additional parking spaces.
In an effort to relieve flooding during the rapid development of the northwest suburbs during the 1960s and 1970’s, the MWRD, the Lake County Forest Preserve District, and the Village of Buffalo Grove entered into an agreement in 1973 to acquire the Buffalo Creek site. The MWRD completed construction on the original reservoir in 1983, including an earthen dam, concrete spillway and 48-inch outlet pipe. A second agreement led to an expansion of the reservoir in 1988, creating the upper pool, as well as modifying the emergency spillway. In 2011, the MWRD published the Lower Des Plaines Detailed Watershed Plan, identifying further expansion of the reservoir to help flood prone areas.
During preliminary engineering, the MWRD developed five different sized reservoir expansion alternatives, and worked with the Army Corps to determine each alternative’s economic benefits. The chosen design utilized an additional 180 acre-feet of storage, which the USACE determined would reduce future flood damages by more than $26 million.
Lake County Grading Company expanded the reservoir before the MWRD established native plantings. Monitoring and maintenance are underway to ensure the survival of native species at the site. Concurrently, MWRD is also monitoring and maintaining the two reaches of stream restoration along the Buffalo Creek Main Stem and the West Unnamed Tributary.