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Rahm Pours $50 Million Into 'Greener, Cleaner' Water Management

By Ted Cox | October 7, 2013 12:21pm
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a five-year, $50 million project to improve storm runoff Monday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a five-year, $50 million project to improve storm runoff Monday.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

SOUTH LOOP — The mayor announced a five-year, $50 million plan to improve storm-water management Monday.

Making a presentation to open an international water conference at McCormick Place, Mayor Rahm Emanuel cited the 100-year flood that hit Albany Park in 2008, followed by the severe flooding there this spring, in the need to deal better with rain runoff.

"It's clear that the abnormal is becoming the new normal," Emanuel said, referring to climate change.

"Obviously, that's a priority," added mayoral spokesman Tom Alexander. "But it's not limited to areas that traditionally see flooding."

The project will spend $10 million a year for five years, first identifying areas of improvement, both in neighborhoods and in methods of stormwater management, then in planning for the future.

Emanuel mentioned how his parents first settled in Chicago in Albany Park, which was also part of his 5th Congressional District when he served as U.S. representative.

"Flooding can have a devastating effect on families and their homes, and green infrastructure serves as a key piece of reducing risk to Chicago homeowners and residents," Emanuel said. "By committing to these improvements and policies, we will be in much better position to reduce flooding in future storms and protect the environment going forward. This initiative will change the way the city manages storm water in the future and allow us to continue developing new technologies and approaches on behalf of our residents and businesses."

Key to it is what Emanuel called "greener, cleaner technology," including permeable pavement and the planting of plants and trees to reduce runoff. The five-year plan will not only target specific areas, but also generally reduce the need to dump stormwater into the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

"In many cases green infrastructure has proven to be cost-effective over traditional hard infrastructure, allowing the city to stretch our capital-improvement dollars,” said Tom Powers, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Water Management. "Additionally, green infrastructure often has other non-storm-water-related benefits, like serving as open space, creating wildlife habitat and improving property values."

Emanuel announced what's being called the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy to open the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference at McCormick Place on Monday.