Flooding concerns have been mitigated, officials say
By Jason Arndt
The McHenry Street corridor, just north of the Burlington bypass, often experienced persistent floods following steady rainfall for more than a decade.
However, after several years of discussions, including businesses working towards to a solution, the problematic flooding along the McHenry Street has been resolved.
Burlington Mayor Jeannie Hefty at a July 18 committee of the whole meeting recognized the multiple businesses, including Lavelle Industries, for their work in mitigating the recurring flooding.
“I am going to honor individuals and companies who worked with the City of Burlington to address a major stormwater issue,” Hefty told the Common Council. “Over the last 15 years, Lavelle had seen an increase in recurring flooding after 3-4 inches of rain.”
While Lavelle and neighboring business such as KW Precast, County Prestress, and Ardagh Glass continued to see problematic flooding, the issue became magnified in 2017, when the area experienced a historic flood that caused substantial damage to multiple areas.
Hefty noted the flood created unsafe conditions for the community, which included businesses along the McHenry Street corridor, where hundreds of people work on a daily basis.
“The 2017 flood really showed the damage that could be done in all areas of these major companies,” Hefty said.
In response to the floods, the City of Burlington enlisted the assistance of State Rep. Robin Vos, who secured $50,000 in funding within the 2018 biennial budget to allow the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Commission to complete a stormwater analysis.
Vos, on hand for the July 18 committee of the whole meeting, found it was imperative to find a solution to the longstanding concern on McHenry Street.
He recalled touring the McHenry Street corridor.
“I don’t think many Wisconsinites, much less Burlington, knew how close we were to having real tragedies there,” Vos said. “The furnaces at Ardagh could have been flooded and could have caused major problems.”
“We were lucky not to have worse things happen in 2017,” he added.
For six years, Hefty said she, City Administrator Carina Walters and all businesses met multiple times to discuss the matter.
According to the analysis through SEWRPC, officials issued recommendations related to stormwater runoff to each property owner, city records showed.
On May 3, 2022, when the Common Council first reviewed the Stormwater Master Agreement between the city and multiple businesses, elected officials learned about the results from the analysis.
“It was identified that the stormwater from County Prestress/County Materials, Lavelle and Ardagh all lack on-site stormwater management controls,” city records stated. “Due to the lack of private on-site management, the stormwater from the properties inundates the city’s storm sewer pipe along McHenry Street, causing flooding along McHenry Street and the Lavelle property.”
The multiple businesses, meanwhile, endorsed the Stormwater Master Agreement and began the process of completing individual stormwater solutions to mitigate the flooding concerns.
As part of the agreement, each property’s stormwater management solution must meet specific criteria, such as the ability to collect and detain the runoff from the 100-year, 24-hour recurrence interval and release at a rate not to exceed the 10-year, 24-hour existing release rate, a city document states.
Hefty said each business invested significant capital into resolving individual stormwater management.
“These companies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to address this issue,” Hefty said. “I can’t say enough for these companies to come together to solve this problem.”
In addition to multiple businesses, Hefty also credited the state Department of Transportation, which helped the Ardagh Group in its plans.
City records showed the DOT partnered to assist Ardagh, allowing the company to use the DOT’s stormwater basin, as needed.
The key objective, city records added, looked to reduce stormwater runoff before it entered the city’s infrastructure that eventually flows east to the Fox River.
Walters, who did not issue any comments specific to the recognition, previously told officials she and other staff members have seen positive results from the Stormwater Master Agreement.
“We are very pleased to say that, so far, there has not been any flooding and it has been a pretty wet spring,” Walters told the Common Council on May 2.