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Bay residents weigh pros, cons of Cahill retention pond

Softball, soccer fields to pull double duty for stormwater management

Sept. 26, 2012

Whitefish Bay - Plans to create a dry retention pond at Cahill Park drew mixed commentary from residents last week when officials presented an approved 15-year capital improvement plan for the village.

According to the capital plan, a space at the northeast corner of Cahill Park currently used for softball and soccer would be graded down in 2013 to serve as a dry retention pond for excess rainwater storage. Usually, the retention pond would be dry and usable for recreational activities, but in the event of a large storm, it would hold rainwater for 24 to 48 hours, slowly draining into the village's stormwater system over time.

Piece of stormwater puzzle

The retention pond is one piece of the $105 million capital improvement plan, which aims to minimize rainwater infiltration into the village's sanitary sewer system and revamp the stormwater system. The goal is to ensure the stormwater system can handle a major storm with a hypothetical 100-year occurrence interval, using a combination of pipe storage underground and village streets to hold water.

"To create even more volume and more storage where streets are reconstructed and where possible, we will use the street as temporary storage until that volume of water can be conveyed into an inlet and downstream through the stormwater system," village Director of Public Works and Engineering Daniel Naze said.

To do that the village will be adding the retention pond at Cahill Park, adding a discharge pipe to the Milwaukee River, inspecting and repairing sewer laterals around the village, reconstructing streets, and replacing water mains over the length of the plan. Costs of specific improvements will be determined and reviewed by village officials as time goes on.

"When the board approved this, they approved it conceptually," said Village Manager Patrick DeGrave. "The board and staff are going to want to revisit this often."

According to the capital plan, the northeast corner of the Cahill Park, which currently allows for softball and soccer, would be graded down to a maximum depth of 9 feet. The baseball field at Cahill will be reconstructed and will have a gradual slope, as well, to move rainwater toward the retention pond. Village officials are working with Friends of Bay Baseball to ensure that the redesigned field fits Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association standards. The village has applied for a $4 million federal grant to help cover the cost of the Cahill project and expects a decision before the beginning of the work next summer.

Homeowners want flood relief

Though the retention pond would allow for general use in dry conditions, residents offered mixed feedback on the idea. Some said they oppose the idea entirely. Some said they support the idea of a place to store rainwater temporarily but want the retention pond elsewhere in Cahill or elsewhere in the village. And some in the audience, especially those who had basements repeatedly flooded with rainwater and solid waste over the years, came out to voice their approval of the plan.

"I need to strongly speak out in support of this project," said resident Jim Cauley, who lives just north of the proposed retention pond and whose basement flooded three times in 2010. "It helps all of the people in the area."

The village chose Cahill for a retention area, Naze said, due to its topographical location within the village, the lack of available open space within the village, and for its ability to hold water and free up stormwater sewer capacity in the surrounding areas, especially the streets south and west through which rainwater travels on its way to the Milwaukee River.

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