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Peoria Prepares For Illinois River Flooding

Kristin McHugh/WCBU
Peoria Public Works employees prepare sandbags in May 2019 to hold back the Illinois River. The city is repeating the process this week.

Peoria is moving quickly to shore up its riverfront as floodwaters rise on the Illinois River.

Work on a sandbag wall to protect the historic River Station began Monday. The National Weather Service said recent heavy rains are expected to push the river to nearly 28 feet in Peoria by Friday. Flood stage is 18 feet.

Superintendent Sie Maroon said the city is preparing for a 30-foot crest, just in case.

 “We want to make sure we are set at the highest level we can get to. Right now with the material that we have, we can get to a 30-foot height,” he said.

Maroon expects crews will begin extending the flood wall toward Liberty Street Tuesday. Work is on schedule for Wednesday evening completion, if not sooner.

Maroon said crews are taking lessons learned from last year’s flooding – with the hope of keeping Water Street near River Station open as long as possible.

“We’re staying ahead of the water coming up,” said Maroon. “We’re definitely in pretty good shape right at the moment. So by tomorrow [Wednesday] late afternoon, early evening, we should have the wall completely installed for what we’re doing right now.”

Maroon said he’s hoping the city won’t need additional sandbagging to protect Water Street’s 300 block.

The flooding comes as the city is evaluating job cuts to help close a $50 million budget gap created by lost revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re certainly not prepared financially, especially right now with the COVID-19 situation affecting budget," Maroon said. “Now this is going to affect the budget. It’s all COVID-19 budget related now that puts a stress on everything that we’re doing.”

Peoria battled a similar flood in 2019, when the river crested at 28 feet on May 7.  The NWS website shows the all-time high of 29.35 feet happened in 2013.

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Kristin McHugh is an experienced radio journalist and nonprofit manager. Most recently, she served as executive director of the Peoria Area World Affairs Council.