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Village of Frankfort Stays Ahead of Development for Urban Flood Control

FRANKFURT, IL - The Village of Frankfort, Illinois is a bustling community in Will County, with a small portion in Cook County.

In 1994, a major flood occurred and over 200 drainage complaints were received. After the flood, the Village began aggressive flood control efforts. In December 1994, the Village developed its first comprehensive stormwater management ordinance. In July 1996, Frankfort experienced a 500-year flood event with 7 to 10 inches of rain. By 1997, a Stormwater Management Plan had been completed and, in 2000, a Water Resources Management Plan was finalized.

The Water Resource Management Plan identified receiving areas for runoff. Watershed management is a key component of the plan and environmental, ecological, hydrologic, and hydraulic functions, and preservation of natural landscapes are all taken into consideration.

Stormwater management in Frankfort is required for all development, regardless of size. The plan includes strict design requirements for developers. Each project must incorporate conservation design elements (best management practices or BMPs). All work is done outside of the special flood hazard areas. Maintaining existing wetlands and depression areas is a key consideration, as is providing groundwater recharge elements.

For most of the communities in northeast Illinois, the standard for a 100-year storm event is 7.58 inches of rainfall in a 24-hour period; Frankfort set theirs at 8.36 inches. This means developing larger retention areas to accommodate the increased amount of stormwater runoff from a rain event.

The Village recommends and prefers wet basin design instead of the old-style dry basins that only temporarily catch floodwaters that then quickly recede. Wet basins encourage ponding of water with capture areas that are able to hold more water and slowly recede, thereby recharging the aquifer more quickly. The Village requires wet basins to meet stringent requirements and BMP design elements.

The Village maintains the natural waterways (streams, creeks and rivers) and removes snags and other debris that might clog the channels and create water backup. Because of the successful urban flood control regulations, the Village's emergency crews have not had to respond in flood events for 10 years. Minor, localized flooding has occurred, but has largely been because of trapped debris that, once cleared, has resulted in quickly receding water.

The rains in July 2010 caused one of the largest disasters in Illinois history. Many urban dwellers had property damage from sewer backups and overland flooding. The Village of Frankfort escaped with only two property owners incurring minimal damage primarily caused by trapped debris in drainage areas. Two to three months after the flooding, urban dwellers in the Chicago area were still cleaning up their basements, while Frankfort residents had all but forgotten the heavy rain event that was handled successfully because of the foresight of local government officials.

Last updated June 3, 2020