WOODSTOCK – Friday morning’s special meeting of the McHenry County Board to deal with last week’s flooding was part action, part update and part rumor control.
The County Board voted, 21-0, to waive building and stormwater permit fees through the end of the year for repairing flood-damaged structures. They heard from emergency officials that floodwaters are slowly receding and river levels are slowly dropping.
And transportation officials told them that allegations that ongoing work to replace the Charles Miller Road bridge in McHenry has exacerbated Fox River flooding upstream of the project are unfounded.
Board members convened the special meeting just before a regularly scheduled budget workshop. It will have to vote in early May to extend the state of emergency that Chairwoman Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, declared.
McHenry County is one of 44 counties declared disaster areas by Gov. Pat Quinn. The declaration frees up state resources to help with response and recovery, and allows the state to ask for federal assistance.
Water levels on the Fox River and Nippersink Creek are slowly receding, McHenry County Emergency Management Agency Assistant Director Robert Ellsworth told board members.
The Fox River at the tail water of the McHenry Lock and Dam was just under 7.2 feet as of Friday morning. It had reached a historical high of almost 7.5 feet. Flood stage at that portion of the river is 4 feet.
Downstream, water levels at the tail water of Algonquin dam were at 12.3 feet and slowly falling. Flood stage at that location is 9.5 feet. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources estimates the Fox River could take up to two weeks to fall below flood stage, excluding additional rain.
The county has handed out more than 157,900 sandbags to municipalities and townships to help combat the flooding, EMA Director David Christensen said. But while volunteers were needed during the flooding, Christensen told board members they will be needed again.
“There’s going to be a huge need for volunteers to clean this mess up,” Christensen said.
As of Friday morning, only one county road – River Road between Charles Miller and Lily Lake roads in Nunda Township – is still closed because of standing water, Division of Transportation Maintenance Superintendent Mark DeVries said. The department hopes to have the road reopened over the weekend.
Ongoing work to add another two lanes of bridge span on the Charles Miller Road Bridge has been suspended because of the flooding. And several upstream residents with flooded properties are wondering whether the work has anything to do with it.
Laurie Wilde lives about a mile upstream from the bridge in the Fair Oaks subdivision. The 18-year resident says this is the first time the river has spilled over her sea wall – while part of her property is flooded, her home is not.
“We’re not saying we wouldn’t have flooded – we’re saying that the water came up so much faster than it ever has before,” Wilde said.
The county put out a news release Thursday in response to the calls they have received questioning whether the bridge work has caused upstream flooding. DeVries told board members the bridge’s plans conform to federal, state and local guidelines requiring that in-stream construction projects, such as bridges, do not increase flood heights more than one-tenth of a foot for any flood up to a 100-year-flood event.
“It’s engineered for a situation just like this,” DeVries said.
Christensen said Friday afternoon that only about five or six municipal and township governments have reported their flood-related expenses to the EMA for an application for state reimbursement. The EMA needs the reports, from raw materials to fuel to overtime, by close of business Monday, he said.