MORRIS – State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, told Grundy County residents who attended a flood prevention town hall forum Wednesday night how the Illinois Valley Flood Resiliency Alliance is pulling communities together to work toward flood prevention.
"It's about sharing information about flood management. It's about sharing what we've learned," Rezin said. "This model, the alliance, is about small farm communities with modest means pulling together, and their willingness to make hard decisions about addressing the flooding issues."
A panel made up of Grundy County Chairman David Welter, Grundy County EMA Deputy Director Tom Kulasik, Ottawa building official Mike Sutfin, and Paul Osman, national flood insurance program coordinator for the Illinois Office of Water Resources, each presented facts about area flooding and how residents can address the issues before opening the floor to a question and answer session.
Rezin said that in the 2012 flood maps, the most recent released, homeowners who weren't previously in a flood plain were finding themselves in one, and were receiving bills for flood insurance, which prompted calls to her office.
"We've had creeks flooding that have never flooded before," Rezin said.
Sutfin, who has been key in addressing Ottawa's flood issues, said these concerns need to be addressed at a local level.
Welter said the meeting was one way to bring Grundy County communities and residents together to look at flood prevention, something he believes needs to be addressed.
"Tonight was a call to action for our local communities to come together and address this issue," Welter said.
Flooding in the City of Morris
Bryan Martindale, principal water resources engineer with Knight Engineers & Architects, said he had looked at the 2012 flood maps and he believes there are issues in the official mapping which stemmed from a 1992 study.
He said the data used is questionable and that data from the East Fork Nettle Creek, which flooded in 2013, was outdated. He said in his opinion, some of the areas currently in a flood plain should not be.
To have the maps changed, a community would have to pay to have a hydrology study done.
Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick said after the meeting that is exactly what the city of Morris is working on.
"The city is in the process of looking to do a study with mapping and a hydrology study," Kopczick said. "We've also taken steps to mitigate the flooding."
Kopczick said the city addressed areas hard hit by the 2013 flooding, specifically the area that caused Morris Hospital to have to evacuate patients. He said he feels that area has been fixed and shouldn't see flooding that would affect the hospital again.
Flood insurance discussed
Osman addressed flood insurance and some misconceptions about the flooding that has repeatedly occurred in the area.
"There is no such thing as a 100-year flood. It happens every year in Illinois," Osman said.
He further went on to explain that flood insurance is available to every resident of Grundy County whether or not they live in a flood plain, and for those who do live in a flood plain, there are ways to determine if they should actually be in one.
"If it has four walls and a roof above ground it's insurable," he said. "If your agent tells you that you can't buy flood insurance, you need a new agent."