The Buffalo Creek Reservoir Expansion Project increased storage capacity to alleviate flooding for downstream communities, while at the same time improving public recreation amenities at Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve. The $9.7-million project increased the existing Buffalo Creek Reservoir's volume by approximately 180 acre-feet to account for an additional 58.6 million gallons of flood storage. Seven new timber boardwalks were installed and pedestrian paths were relocated and reconstructed to remove them from inundation during the 10-year storm event.
Through a collaborative process with the Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD) and Village of Buffalo Grove, the project was designed to incorporate LCFPD’s planned improvements in addition to offering increased stormwater protection for Buffalo Grove and downstream communities. The project included public access improvements, enhanced the preserve’s natural features and expanded the reservoir’s volume by excavating more than 300,000 cubic yards of material. Along with the important flood control improvements, the project incorporated several aesthetic and ecological enhancements. Wetlands were created and restored; hundreds of new trees and shrubs were planted; upland prairie was created west of Schaeffer Road; two tributary streams entering the reservoir were enhanced; and one tributary was stabilized. Public access improvements included new timber boardwalks and raised trails, and an expanded parking lot.
The project removes 107 structures from various flood recurrence intervals along Buffalo Creek and the Des Plaines River. In addition, more than 2,000 downstream structures received some form of flood reduction benefit. During preliminary engineering, the MWRD developed five different sized reservoir expansion alternatives, and worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to determine each alternative’s economic benefits. The USACE determined that the chosen design utilized will reduce future flood damages by more than $26 million.
Officials with the MWRD, USACE, Village of Buffalo Grove, Village of Wheeling and Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD) formally broke ground on the project on May 2, 2018, and it was substantially completed in 2020. Following construction, the MWRD has worked to establish native plantings on site for the first three growing seasons. Monitoring and maintenance have taken place to ensure the survival of native species at the site. Concurrently, MWRD is conducting five years of monitoring and maintenance on the two reaches of stream restoration along the Buffalo Creek Main Stem and the West Unnamed Tributary.