Biss’ flood management bill moves to governor

Stephanie Kelly, Reporter

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) aiming to help communities deal with flooding passed the Illinois Senate on Friday and now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn (D) for approval.

The bill amends and expands the abilities of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Act, which deals with flooding in Cook County outside of Chicago. It passed both the House and Senate with no opposition.

With the bill, the MWRD can now take on more localized projects. Members of the MWRD can buy flood-prone properties from willing property owners at an agreed upon price, said Biss spokeswoman Katharine Eastvold. From there, members can decide what is best for the property and return it to open land or find another solution.

“It doesn’t obligate them to take on any particular projects or particular properties, it just gives them that option,” Eastvold said.

Before, the MWRD dealt with more regional projects, like flooding in streambeds and rivers, which affect many municipalities. When a municipality is not in a position to manage a flooding issue on its own, the MWRD decides how to handle it.

This is the first of two bills regarding flooding that have come up recently in the Illinois General Assembly. There is an increased demand in handling flooding issues in the state, Eastvold said.

“Water, of course, doesn’t necessarily respect municipal boundaries,” Eastvold said. “So, it’s necessary to have this upgraded approach and to have the district have a lot of different options for dealing with this.”

Biss and his constituents worked through this proposition with the MWRD before the bill went to Springfield, Eastvold said. Because most of the details had been sorted out before the bill was presented, it was not controversial or hard to pass, she said.

“Usually when you come to Springfield and you say all parties have sat down at the table and we’ve agreed that … it really is something that is consistent with the MWRD’s mission as it stands now, people are not going to be opposed to that,” Eastvold said.

Allison Fore, a spokesperson for the MWRD said Wednesday that the agency is grateful to the General Assembly for passing the bill.

“We are very pleased that these bills received the support that they did,” Fore wrote in an email to The Daily.

The overall mission of the bill, Eastvold said, is just to add to the ways that the MWRD can address flooding problems in Cook County.

“It’s an expansion of their options, an expansion of their toolbox,” Eastvold said. “It is not a commitment to any projects.”

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