Tarver promises ‘concerted effort’ to combat issues stemming from rising Lake Michigan levels

State Rep. Curtis J. Tarver II (D-25th) talks with constituents at the Nov. 4 meeting. (Photo by Aaron Gettinger)

Staff writer

At a constituents’ meeting on Nov. 4, State Rep. Curtis J. Tarver II (D-25th) addressed residents’ concerns about rising Lake Michigan levels

Orrin McDaniels, head of the Coastland Co-operative Apartments board, 2666 E. 73rd St., said “nobody” wants to claim U.S. Highway 41, which runs through the South Side as Lake Shore and South Shore drives.

“CDOT doesn’t want to claim it; IDOT doesn’t want to claim it; the federal government doesn’t want to claim it,” McDaniels said. “You’re talking about one stretch of highway that has had to be re-paved 3 times in 10 or 11 years, and there’s nothing on the street.” He supposed that there has been shoddy roadwork on a well-traveled road.

Tarver said his office has discussed issues about U.S. 41 and other 25th District infrastructure with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) mindful of the June-passed capital bill but he cautioned that “it’s not something that’s slated at all.”

“The issue oftentimes is that they’ll do the project if other money comes in. I don’t know if that’s the case with CDOT, but I’d be happy to look into it,” Tarver said, saying that Chicago Public Schools are allowed to fund a project on an individual school if half of the money comes from another source.

Other attendees, all from South Shore, said their basements were flooding and they fear sinkholes forming from utility work. The rising waters’ effects dominated the August Jackson Park Advisory Council meeting. After a summer when many Great Lakes beaches and shoreline roads were closed because of near-record-high waters, the city began installing barriers to stem the threat of flooding.

“We set there on the lake. We’ve had the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in. We’ve put a whole expanse of rocks on the lakeside to ensure there’s a breaker as far as the Army Corps of Engineers thought we should go,” McDaniels said. “One hundred thousand pounds of rock that they brought in and dumped there — water still comes underneath it, through it and into the basement of the building.”

In September, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said USACE, the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) had briefed elected officials on the threat lake waters pose; she said that city, state and federal officials would need to work in tandem so “that the south lakefront gets the attention and funding it desperately needs.”

“Leslie has been yelling and screaming and gotten promises — and no fulfillment of those promises,” McDaniels said. “That whole Promontory Point thing that was supposed to have been done a long time ago? They did improvements on 57th Street Beach, but they still didn’t do anything on Promontory Point, and they’ve stopped right there.”

Tarver said he would do what he could do in Springfield and asked the residents if they would consider forming a committee on the issue, suggesting coordination with State Rep. Kambium Buckner (D-26th) and Ald. Greg Mitchell (7th), whose office, 2249 E. 95th St., hosted the meeting.

“I imagine if I go to your building I’m going to have several people say the same exact thing,” Tarver said. “I want to make sure that we have at least some concerted effort to bring those issues up.”

“At least now you have a situation where you have elected officials who are at least communicating with each other,” Tarver said. “I think that if it is a couple state reps and a state senator and so on, this affects all of our respective districts, especially at a time when — cities and states, states and cities — we all need each other.”

While Hairston and Mitchell are both tied up in Budget Committee meetings, Tarver noted that the Illinois General Assembly has flexibility between the legislative sessions later this month and next year.

“I think what we should do between now and the end of the year, we’ll have a game plan going for 2020,” he added. “I’m just getting down here and scratching the surface; the capital bill is a six-year program. It’s not as though if a problem is not in here today it will never see the light of day. It’s incumbent upon us to see exactly if there are state funds that are available to help to provide some relief here. If not, wherever the funds are, we have to go chase them down.”

“If it takes our office reaching out to Greg and Leslie and our congressmen, then fine. But I think it’s a lot more difficult to ignore everybody on the same side of the road. I can’t imagine anybody saying, ‘Hey, I think it’s a bad idea to do a study,'” Tarver said. “I think it more or less now becomes who is going to take the lead on it, because once the ball is in motion, plenty of people will jump on board.”