Making Democracy Work

Wilmette Capital Improvement Planning

Update on $77 Million Stormwater Project

Update on $77 Million Stormwater Project

The Wilmette Village Board has been meeting to discuss Village-wide capital improvements including streets, facilities and sewers.

On Thursday October 20th the Board met as a Committee of the Whole to discuss the proposed $77 million storm water project and reached a consensus to include funding in the 2017 Budget for a value engineering study. The study will validate the results of the recommended project and to determine if there are lower cost alternatives. It is anticipated that this new study will be completed in spring of 2017. Additional public meetings will be held at that time to determine whether or not to proceed with the project.

Click here for complete information about the project including minutes of the board meeting.

Stormwater Management Local Study Consensus Meeting February 2014 and September 2014 Follow-up


On Monday, September 29th, Brigitte Berger, the Director of Engineering for the Village of Wilmette presented the following slides during her presentation about current stormwater improvement plans for the Village.

Click here for the Village of Wilmette Stormwater Implrovement Plans


The LWV Wilmette Stormwater Study grew out of the Board planning session in June, 2013. Then on June 18, Wilmette, in cooperation with other North Shore leagues, presented a community meeting on stormwater. Attendance was robust, an indication that this issue is a high priority with Village residents. The presenters included the MWRD (Metropolitan Water Reclamation District), the CNT (Center for Neighborhood Technology), the ILEPA (Illinois Environmental Protection Agency), and Illinois Coastal Management.

During the summer of 2013, several League members began to gather information by attending a field trip to the Deep Tunnel Project and by meeting with the CNT and the National Resource Defense Council. These agencies shared a wealth of information and helped to give direction to the upcoming study.

By September, 2013, the League study group was formed: Joanne Aggens, Nancy Canafax, Georgia Gebhardt, Trudy Gibbs, Joel Kurzman and Lali Watt. The study group researched the topic from September-December and developed a set of consensus questions. Group members attended the Lake Michigan LWV annual meeting in Kenosha, the Winnetka Deep Tunnel community meetings and the meeting of the NWMC Watershed Planning Council. Brigitte Berger, Wilmette Village engineer, met with the group numerous times to give background information and to answer questions. The product of this research and the consensus questions, including the results of the consensus meeting, may be accessed on the LWV Wilmette website (

Next steps: the 2014-2015 LWV Wilmette Board will be exploring how the League can take action on this position and advocate for improved stormwater policies/programs in the Village.

A presentation of the study questions and the research related to them, was presented to a sizable group which was able to come to consensus. That consensus will form the basis of a position that will allow the Wilmette League to advocate on matters related to Village stormwater policy.

  • An introduction to how stormwater is managed in Wilmette -- where our water goes; why stormwater has become more problematic as we experience more frequent, intense storms; and why we need to consider watersheds not just village boundaries when we talk about stormwater issues.
  • A review of the regulatory codes and ordinances within our community as well as those from external entities that impact how stormwater is managed in Wilmette
  • A presentation of established and emerging best practices for stormwater management, followed by a discussion of how best to plan an educational component for our findings.

The consensus part of the meeting was moderated by Gail Thomason. The objective is to try and reach consensus on the recommended path forward to address this growing problem.

There was participation of League members from neighboring Leagues. Their comments during the discussion session are often germane to problems and solutions they have encountered ahead of us. Voting during the consensus session is limited to Wilmette League members.

Members of the study group: Joanne Aggens, Nancy Canafax, Georgia Gebhardt, Trudy Gibbs, Joel Kurzman, Trish Nealon and Lali Watt.

Thanks to Dorothy Speidel recording the session. Below are the notes and CONSENSUS RESULTS.

25 people gathered for the Consensus meeting held at the Wilmette Public Library. There were a few guests but an overwhelming majority of attendees were Wilmette League members.

Georgia Gebhardt, as chairman of the Stormwater Study Committee, welcomed all and thanked the rest of the Committee members: Joanne Aggens, Nancy Canafax, Trudy Gibbs, Joel Kurzman, and Lali Watt. Questions were asked and answered during the presentations.

There were 100 pages of presentation materials. Presentation materials are available upon request.

Georgia presented:

Objectives of the Study included:

  • review the current status of stormwater management in Wilmette,
  • to understand outside entities whose regulations impact what the Village can or cannot do,
  • to review best practices, to evaluate Wilmette in the context of such practices
  • to determine what needs to happen, if anything, to move Wilmette towards better practices
  • to determine what the League's appropriate role is in this process.

Georgia went on to discuss:

  • Stormwater flooding from intense rain events
  • Stormwater is Often Highly Polluted
  • Why is stormwater pollution an issue?

Lali Watt presented:

  • Understanding Flooding
  • Stormwater Terminology
  • Runoff with Respect to Land Coverage
  • Gray infrastructure (pipes, tunnels, storage areas) vs. Green infrastructure (rain gardens, porous pavers, retention basins, and bioswales).
  • Ways to Increase Capacity to manage Stormwater During Intense Storms

Nancy Canafax presented:
  • Problems in Wilmette (old, undersized or leaky municipal pipes)
  • Stormwater Disposal Challenges
  • History and Development of Sewer System of Wilmette
  • Waste and Stormwater Disposal
  • - East of Ridge Road + combined sewers for waste and stormwater- theoretically all treated and ultimately discharged in the Gulf of Mexico. In intense storms, however, water flows into the North Shore Channel, etc.
  • - West of Ridge Road + all separate sanitary and stormwater sewers. Normal rainfall: no flooding issues but pollution in waterways
Intense rainfall: some neighborhoods experience backups in both systems.

  • To Address the Problem, the Source Matters: Research has shown that in as much as 70% of defect-related inflow and infiltration of stormwater in sanitary pipes in villages like Wilmette, the source is from private connections.
  • Types of Problems Identified in West Wilmette (Evaluations Made by consultants in 1988). Repairs were made by the Village and most property owners.
  • Ordinances: Cook County Cook County Watershed Stormwater Ordinance will go into effect 4/1/14. This ordinance will not apply to single family homes. It promotes the integration of green infrastructure into new developments and re-development of projects of more than one acre. It is not intended to solve problems, only to prevent making the situation worse.
Challenges in Addressing Stormwater Flooding in Wilmette:
  • Age of sewer system, scant funds for analysis and remediation
  • Imperfect understanding of problems and solutions by property owners, municipal oversight, and regional oversight.

Trudy Gibbs presented:

  • Best Practices: General Principles: Please see Presentation Materials.
  • Rain Ready Approaches for Managing Stormwater Flooding (Center for Neighborhood Technology).
  • Specific Best Practice Actions: Village
  • Specific Best Practice Actions: Property Owners
  • Best Practices + Summary for Municipalities
  • Best Practices + Pollution Reduction
  • Today's Problems often stem from yesterday's solutions
  • Wilmette does not have a Stormwater Plan. Glenview and other area villages do. Wilmette needs to get this right.


Gail Thomason, facilitator:

1. Should the Village create more incentives for property owners to execute plans to retain larger amounts of stormwater on their properties? YES

2. Should there be a sewer/stormwater fee assessed proportionate to the amount of the impervious surface of a property with a way to adjust the fee for mitigating factors (such as a rain garden or retention device)? (Now the sewer fee is based on water usage.) YES

It was suggested that property owners would have to appeal to the Village to get credit for good practices.

3. Should the Village of Wilmette set up a process (including a reporting mechanism) with neighboring villages and other governmental entities in the same watershed to seek common solutions? The purpose of this process is to seek common solutions that protect each entity's interests. YES

4. Should a Wilmette Comprehensive Stormwater Plan include target measures for success including, but not limited to, such things as a reduction in percentage of basements flooded, an increase in pervious surfaces and/or improvement in runoff water quality? YES

5. A representative cross section of property owners (including business and residential owners and flooded and non-flooded properties) should have an active involvement in every stage of the development of the Village of Wilmette Stormwater Master Plan. YES

6. Should LWV Wilmette create an Action Committee to advocate for the adopted consensus positions? YES