Source: Sherman Publications

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Goodrich's Wheelock-Watkins drain

January 23, 2013

Dear Editor,

I have been reading for a long time about Goodrich's Wheelock-Watkins Drain and its flooding. This was an agricultural drain built 115 years ago and was not intended to handle what it is right now. It is undersized for what the community has been requiring it to do. When that drain was built in 1897, the golf course and most of the homes now benefiting from this drain district were not even a dream yet.

When this drain gets overwhelmed, water now collects in the vacant lot at the corner of Huron and Seneca in the village, right behind the three newer homes built on Ridge Road at Huron. When these homes were built, the Village required the developer to modernize the storm sewers there, because prior to this, waters from the overwhelmed drain would often flood Ridge Road and impede traffic. Now, modern sewer pipe (concrete, much wider bore) takes the water off Ridge, along Huron and behind the 3 homes where it connects to the outdated Wheelock drain which travels under the Village and dumps the water into the creek.

When this drain clogs, or otherwise cannot handle the amount of rain, that vacant lot floods and neighboring homes are threatened. I live next door to Terese Allen who experienced a major flood loss from this in 2011. Her finished basement, including the furnace, etc., was destroyed, and her children were displaced from their bedrooms. I cannot yet agree with the Village and County who seem to claim no responsibility for this at all.

The reason that Ms. Allen's walk-out basement flooded but mine, only twenty-some feet away, did not is because her basement was dug a foot or two deeper than mine. When the hole for that home was being dug, the builder (who lived in the home after it was built) told me that he had to dig deeper than planned to find suitable soil for the foundation. He also told me that he had to get a code variance from the Village to be able to go deeper. I have since talked to a Village Council member who told me that he knew of no variance given. Was this basement dug deeper than code would allow? If so, did the Village give a variance, or did the building inspector miss this? It would seem that these questions would have to be explored before the Village could claim not to be liable to Ms. Allen in some way.

But there is more blame to go around. In November and December 2006, a large amount of fill dirt was illegally dumped on the vacant lot where this water usually collects. They filled in about a third of the lot and graded it up to road level. Areas that regularly flooded were filled in. They put up a silt fence before the dumping, but I watched as their bulldozers buried that, and later they put up another one.

I was concerned about the potential for flood damage to my home, so I took photos of this activity to the Village office, where I was told I needed to report it to the County, which I also did. The County issued a stop-work order and posted it on the lot and the dumping stopped. But the damage was done because nobody was forced to remove the fill dirt. There is no denying that at least some of the water in Ms. Allen's basement was water displaced by that fill dirt. In my opinion, the dumper of that fill dirt has some liability to Ms. Allen, as does the County for not enforcing its removal.

I think if a judge were to sort out liability, the Village, the County and the illegal dumper could all find themselves paying part of Ms. Allen's damages. I think the Village should be doing whatever they can to help her recover and to remedy the flooding issue going forward. Giving their full support the drain repair project would be a good way to start.

Dennis Dority