Orchards residents air flooding problems at two-hour meeting

News-DemocratAugust 22, 2013 

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert in a 2013 file photo.

ZIA NIZAMI — znizami@bnd.com

— This past April, when the city of Belleville got more than 5 inches of rain in half a day, water came through the basement window of at least one home in The Orchards subdivision.

Martha Dowling, of the 2600 block of Fairway Drive, said the same thing happened at her home during a storm in April 2012.

The rainwater overflowed a creek that runs behind her home. So instead of going across the road, the water backed up at the culvert and ran down the street, leaving a trail of dirt and debris from cornfields.

On Thursday, Dowling and about 50 residents from the subdivision met engineers from two firms, Ben Fecko and Scott Arends, hired by the city of Belleville to study why the area floods during heavy rain.

The Orchards Homeowners Association organized the two-hour meeting at the Orchards Golf Club house.

About 425 homes are part of the subdivision, but it was not immediately clear how many properties are affected by flooding. The study will also include areas of the neighboring Orchard Lake and Plum Hill.

Gonzalez Companies LLC and Hanson Professional Services met with residents for the first time Thursday. The agencies plan to complete a flood control plan for the area by the end of the year.

The plan will show flood prone areas, identify potential causes for flooding, recommend ways to reduce flooding, include conceptual drawings and estimate costs.

The Belleville City Council on Monday approved $84,942 to hire the agencies. Gonzalez has offices in Belleville, Wood River and St. Louis, and Hanson is based in Springfield, Ill.

City Engineer Tim Gregowicz has said the money for the study is included in this year's budget and includes $10,000 the Orchards Homeowners Association gave to the city in 2005 for such work.

The area floods in about 10 locations and the city has responded to every call, Gregowicz said.

The consultants named some known problem areas in their presentation, but asked the homeowner's association to gather more information from residents, including specific addresses of concern and photos or videos documenting the flooding and backups.

Several residents said the flooding had been a problem for more than 20 years. One resident said she spent thousands of dollars to build a berm to keep the water out of her basement and fix an eroding backyard.

Arends, a water resources engineer with Hanson, said the study will prepare for the worst case storm scenarios.

The study will look into issues such as how high flood water get during storms and how much runoff is soaked up in leaves or soil. And, possible solutions include building detention basins and fixing storm sewers.

Arends assured residents that whatever the solutions are won't adversely affect their properties. "Our goal is to have nobody impacted," he said.

Mayor Mark Eckert said Monday, at an aldermanic Streets and Grades Committee meeting, that very little of the problem areas occur on city right-of-way.

When Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult questioned why the city should pay for the study, Eckert said the study will help educate the city about how the flooding affects city subdivisions, residents and streets.

Eckert said that after the study is done, the city will meet with other stakeholders -- developers of the subdivision, the golf course and the homeowners association -- to discuss solutions and funding options.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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