Stormwater commission reviews FoxConn impact study

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

The intersection of Grand Avenue and Kilbourne Road, near the Des Plaines River, is inundated by floodwaters in 2017. (Photo by Gregory Harutunian/for Chronicle Media)

The Lake County Stormwater Commission will address its options, following the submission of an impact analysis study on the Des Plaines River Watershed that is being altered by the FoxConn Technology group at its Mount Pleasant, Wis. development site.

The 24-page report shows “significant” damage to the wetlands storage area, which translates into a deleterious effect on downstream communities in Lake, Cook, and Kane counties.


At issue is 26 acres of wetlands in the watershed near the plant site that will be filled, and subsequently, creating the potential for increased flooding on the Des Plaines River. The recent flooding of the river tract, exacerbated by winter ground-freeze and an inability for absorption, is one example of a situation that can worsen should the wetlands be lost. The village of Gurnee suffered tremendous losses during the 2013 and 2017 “100-Year Floods.”

“The study is out there … and we are inviting local public input, as well as Wisconsin officials’ input,” said the stormwater commission’s Director Mike Warner, when contacted. “Any discussion on further options will take place at the April 4 meeting. We will draft a communications outreach to Wisconsin public officials, and we are looking at going from state to state, which would be governor’s office to governor’s office, as a hope online of discourse.

“Although we have not decided on an action or direction, litigation is not an initial or immediate step,” he said. “We have public comment open until April 8, and as such, we would like to assess and discuss the situation first.”

A map of the water diversion area caused by the FoxConn plant’s construction, straddling the Lake Michigan-Des Plaines River headwaters boundary. (Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation)

The Lake County Board on June 12 passed resolution #18-0682 v.2, jointly with the commission, aimed at registering their concerns over the easing of restrictions by the state of Wisconsin to allow FoxConn and any other developments “to gouge into the Des Plaines River watershed.” No environmental impact study was completed by FoxConn, Wisconsin or Lake County to justify “the diversion of approximately 7 million gallons of Lake Michigan water per day; and the treatment and return of more than 4 million gallons of water per day to Lake Michigan.”

The stormwater commission then engaged the Rosemont-based firm of Christopher B. Burke Engineering Services, Inc. that month to complete a study, approving the $74,000 cost. That study was submitted March 7, as the “Wisconsin Electronics, Information Technology and Manufacturing Zone – Upper Des Plaines River Impact Analysis.”

In a press release, the stormwater commission highlighted the study’s four major areas of concern.

  • “Floodplain definition and floodplain management criteria: Analysis of the DPRW suggests the floodplain in Wisconsin is underestimated, which leads to underestimation of flood risk for businesses and residents near the floodplain; and
  • Development site stormwater storage/depressional storage: There is a stormwater and floodplain compensatory storage deficit of approximately 55,000 gallons for every acre developed in the EITM Zone, when compared to Lake County regulations.

It continued, “Wetland impact and mitigation criteria: Thirty-eight acres of wetlands and waters have been filled within the DPRW from the EITM Zone and related roadway development without any mitigation yet created within the watershed. This number will likely grow if development in the area continues, and the current approach is not modified to require mitigation within the DPRW.

The challenges of soil erosion and sediment control were cited as a large land area under construction, and linear roadways with waterway crossings.

“Sediment is being transported from construction sites downstream to the Des Plaines River. One of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency listed causes for impairment in the Des Plaines River is land development activity,” the release said.

Warner noted the study also provides detailed recommendations as remedies to help mitigate flooding concerns.

“Flooding and water quality issues don’t stop at the state line,” said Craig Taylor, SMC Chairman, and Dist. 19 Lake County Board Member, in the release. “It’s imperative that we’re looking at environmental issues and impacts in both Illinois and Wisconsin so we can protect residents and businesses in both states.”

I-94, county highways KR and H, and Braun Road that border the plant site have been given to widening and expansion ahead of the anticipated traffic numbers from company personnel. However, the $10 billion plant has changed its manufacturing scope from producing large-scale LCD televisions. The Taiwan-based FoxConn Technology, Inc. has received more than $3 billion in state tax incentives while reiterating a commitment to creating 13,000 new jobs.

The plant site was first targeted by FoxConn in July 2017, and the contract sale was confirmed through the city of Racine, by October 2017.

Initial results from the study are available on the SMC website and will be open for public review and comment until April 8. Any comments about the draft report should be sent to

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