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Officials renew support for forest preserve expansion
By Russell Lissau | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/17/2007 1:15 PM

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A crowd of local, county, state and federal officials united this morning to renew support for a proposed forest preserve expansion in Buffalo Grove that could lead to flood-control efforts on the Des Plaines River.

The estimated $30 million project would add 250 acres of prairie and wetlands to the Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve, which actually is in Lake County on the north side of Lake-Cook Road at Arlington Heights Road. But U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, state Rep. Elaine Nekritz and other proponents are passionate about the proposal because a reservoir included in the plan would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a new levee on the Des Plaines River.

A similar levee nearing completion in Des Plaines helped fight flooding from the river in that city this past summer, officials said. The proponents gathered today in Kirk's Northbrook office hope the levee they seek would protect homes and businesses in Mount Prospect and Prospect Heights.

"We know that these projects work," said Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat. "We know they can be successful."

The proposal's backed by the Lake County Forest Preserve District, which owns the Buffalo Creek land, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and many local leaders and lawmakers. However, it can't move forward without approval from the National Park Service because that federal agency helped fund improvements at the preserve in the 1990s, and can control changes to the preserve.

Kirk, Lake County Forest Preserve District board President Bonnie Thomson Carter and other officials say the proposed expansion at Buffalo Creek doesn't constitute a change at all -- it's just a move that would allow them to protect more land in the area.

"Change is not bad, as long as it adds to environmental protection," said Kirk, a Highland Park Republican.

The proposal is on the desk of U.S. Interior Department Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Kirk said, and the congressman believes Kempthorne is amenable to the plan. Kirk hopes to hear from Kempthorne within a month.

If approved, the new levee -- dubbed Levee 37 -- would be built on the river between Palatine Road and Euclid Avenue. It could take two years to build and cost $15 million to $20 million, representatives from the Army Corps said.