Through the combination of outreach, regulations and incentives, South Holland, IL has created a community engaged in their own resiliency. The residents are aware of their exposure to floods and take the necessary steps to reduce that vulnerability. Their approach of no adverse impact floodplain management is applicable to many communities in Louisiana that deal with floodplain issues.
South Holland, a relatively small town of 23,000 residents in north east Illinois approximately 20 miles south of Chicago, has developed a hazard mitigation plan to counter regular flooding from the Calumet River. South Holland is subject to slow rising, slow moving and slowly receding floods in all seasons due to localized storms, heavy rainfall and snow melt. The town’s flat topography results in floods with longer lasting effects. In reaction to the heavy flooding of the 1990s, the village adopted a number of strategies to protect itself from flooding. Created in 1994 and updated in 2000, the Flood Mitigation and Comprehensive Plan uses education, outreach, policy, code enforcement and structural protection to control annual flooding. South Holland is diligent in the education and engagement of its residents to avoid any removal of floodplain carrying capacity or storage. Pamphlets and floodplain maps distributed throughout the community, in addition to zoning and building codes, help residents clearly understand how inappropriate development can further exacerbate impacts from flooding.
Citizens and town staff came together to form the Flood Liaison Committee, which assisted in the development of their Floodplain Management Plan. The plan takes a no adverse impact approach, including multiple strategies that collectively reduce the town’s vulnerability to flooding. Enrolling in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Community Rating System gave the committee a framework to begin development of their plan, while also offering a tool for measuring its success. Regular reviewing and updating of the plan ensures its improvement and continued relevance as needs evolve.
South Holland has implemented multiple regulations to combat adverse impacts on the environment due to development. These efforts comprehensively work together to prevent increased flooding caused by new development, retain floodplain carrying and storage capacity, reduce runoff from impervious surfaces, and protect fish and wildlife along with their supportive ecological habitats.
- The project team constructed a regional diversion channel and a flood storage reservoir that created carrying capacity for overflow.
- Codes and regulations were established to avoid overloading the expanded system.
- The town has returned multiple sites to open space functioning as natural floodplain by purchasing then removing structures from flood prone areas.
- Regulations were created requiring a one-foot freeboard above FEMA BFE (base flood elevation) for new construction. Additionally, any material fill in the floodplain must be compensated for by excavating 1.5 times the volume of the fill.
- An ordinance was created for retention of runoff from all storms for new developments.
- The Plan requires two inspections per year of riverine systems to assure they are clean, not in need of maintenance, and free flowing. South Holland maintains an Urban Forestry Commission as well as a full-time arborist to assure that protected trees and vegetation are maintained and protected from negligent development.
By informing and educating citizens about areas most vulnerable to storms and the different approaches to reducing adverse impacts, South Holland has created an engaged community that is proactive about ensuring their own safety. This engagement has allowed them to make huge strides in their protective capabilities with a modest budget.
- Workshops were held and handouts distributed door-to-door to inform citizens about flood protection and decreasing flood risk.
- A website was created as a strategy within an overall public information program to help property owners learn about the hazards they are exposed to and what they can do about them.
- The Flood Assistance Rebate Program offers land owners of single-family residences a 25% rebate (up to $2,500) per home for flood control projects.
- The project team implemented various flood warning services.
Really notable is the town’s public outreach and education efforts. Informing the town residents of their vulnerabilities fosters a proactive attitude to flood mitigation, which helps to increase their capacity to prepare and respond to storm events while working within the confines of a limited budget.
- The Flood Liaison Committee was created to assist in the development of the Floodplain Management Plan. Made up of citizens and town staff, it ensured the town was engaged and informed in mitigation issues.
- South Holland organized a series of open houses which were publicized door-to-door and in the newspaper. These open houses focused on informing citizens about their vulnerabilities to flooding and the options available to mitigate them, through handouts, videos and consultations with local staff and contractors.
- Brochures, booklets and community maps were distributed to the community, which included emergency numbers and a description of government services.
- The community newsletter, published monthly, addresses flooding issues, discusses flood reduction projects and includes summaries of committee meetings.
- Letters are periodically sent to residents living in the floodplain, which contain pertinent information about the NFIP and the importance of purchasing flood insurance.
- In cooperation with two other nearby communities, the Village also organizes an annual Flood Awareness Week by engaging the community through a series of events, including a Business Breakfast meeting to educate local real estate agents, lenders and insurance agents about flooding issues and the NFIP.