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Northwest Side Flooding Targeted by City Project

 A man floats down the street in Dunning after severe rains flooded the Northwest Side of Chicago in April 2013.
A man floats down the street in Dunning after severe rains flooded the Northwest Side of Chicago in April 2013.
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DNAinfo file/Leo Guzman

DUNNING — One of the first projects to be funded by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s $50 million Green Stormwater Infrastructure Strategy will tackle flooding along Oak Park Avenue between Irving Park Road and Forest Preserve Drive, city officials said Wednesday.

Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said the project was needed to prevent a repeat of the April 2013 flooding that turned streets in Dunning into gushing rivers and left two to three feet of water in residents' basements for weeks.

"It won't solve all of the problems," Cullerton said. "But it is a good start."

When Oak Park Avenue is rebuilt later this year, the streetscape will include planters with open bottoms to allow stormwater to slowly seep into the ground, enclosed pits for trees, pavement that allows water to pass through it and bioswales, which are gently sloped ditches full of plants designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water.

“Without green space to absorb rainfall, Chicago’s sewer system is forced to handle large volumes of stormwater, which often lead to flooding events that can damage homes and disrupt lives,” Emanuel said. “Incorporating green infrastructure into existing and ongoing capital projects will help to reduce flooding, protect the environment and strengthen our neighborhoods.”

In addition, city workers will start in the next several weeks a "complete and thorough" sewer and catch basin inspection and cleaning program for those areas hit hardest with flooding in 2013, at Cullerton's request.

Residents of the area between Belmont, Berteau, Pacific and Cumberland avenues may encounter parking restrictions as crews work to clear the sewers and catch basins of debris, Cullerton said.

"In some case, I'm sure these sewers and catch basins haven't been cleaned in decades," Cullerton said.

Crews will target the area between Irving Park Road, Berteau, Pioneer and Cumberland first, based on the number of calls to 311 during last year's floods.

"We're going to do everything we can to prevent that from happening again," Cullerton said. "Hopefully, we got all of our spring rain in the form of snow this winter."

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