Lake County Stormwater Management Commission Honors 2019 Stormwater Award Recipients

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February 10, 2020

Lake County Stormwater Management Commission Honors 2019 Stormwater Award Recipients

On Thursday, February 6, the recipients of the 2019 Stormwater Awards were honored at the Stormwater Management Commission board meeting. The recipients have made significant contributions to improve water quality, reduce flooding and help restore the natural drainage system in Lake County.

“I am humbled by the extraordinary nominations we receive each year," said Mike Warner, Stormwater Management Commission Executive Director. "Award winners and those nominated exemplify a significant investment to stormwater infrastructure, sustainability and community involvement. There are so many individuals and organizations who work tirelessly to make Lake County a better place to work and live. We are incredibly fortunate to have such dedicated individuals who are committed to improving our County's stormwater management.”

Please join us in congratulating this year’s recipients of the 2019 Annual Stormwater Awards. 

Community of the Year – The City of Highland Park

The City of Highland Park is located along nearly five miles of Lake Michigan with Skokie River and Middle Fork River running through the City. Throughout the years, Highland Park has experienced substantial flooding in low level areas near the two rivers, especially after receiving heavy rainfall. When the area is inundated with significant rain in a short period of time, the City’s storm sewers and the Skokie and Middle Fork Rivers do not have time to recede. The continuous rain causes them to overflow, impacting the nearby residents. 

As a result, the City of Highland Park has made stormwater management a top priority. These efforts include:

  • Over the next 10 years, the City of Highland Park budgeted over $18 million in implementing stormwater management related projects. 
  • Through the City’s contributions to flood buyouts, flood mitigation efforts and through projects like the Ravine 3 Ecological Restoration, Highland Park is actively working to alleviate the flooding issues their residents face.
  • Highland Park hosted a community regional flood meeting in October 2019 with federal, state, and local legislators along with federal and state agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to discuss a regional flood mitigation plan.
Highland Park

From left to right: Manny Gomez, City Engineer; Ramesh Kanapareddy, Director of Public Works for the City of Highland Park; Mayor Nancy Rotering and District 11 Lake County Board Member Paul Frank.

Development of the Year – Synergy Flavors, Inc. 

With a new 38,000 square foot office facility, Synergy Flavors, Inc., is committed to sustainability and corporate and social responsibility. Putting sustainability at the forefront, the facility features solar roof panels, native prairie-style landscaping, bike racks and fuel-efficient preferred parking and open, naturally-lit work spaces. Site development was critical to the project and Synergy Flavors took care to preserve the natural ecosystem functions. Bioswales were implemented to minimize impervious hardscapes where the rainwater filters back into the ground rather than burdening the city storm water system and landscaping consisted of native prairie style species. Synergy used this new development as a platform to focus on creating a sustainable, mutually beneficial environment.


Syngery Flavors, Inc.

Education, Outreach and Media Award – Grayslake’s Meadowview Elementary School

Focused on environmental and sustainability education, Meadowview Elementary school is a leader in the community. They strive for twenty-first century excellence in reducing environmental impacts and costs, improving the health and wellness of schools, students and staff and providing effective, hands-on education. From implementing ways to reduce energy consumption to encouraging students to become habitat heroes, Meadowview is improving the knowledge of students and allowing them to have a substantial, positive impact in their own community. 

Students have the opportunity to:

  • Restore the woodlands behind the school, 
  • Plan waste-free lunches, 
  • Conduct education campaigns,
  • Reduce their paper waste, 
  • And much more!  

Best Management Practice (BMP) Project of the Year – Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRDGC) recently completed an expansion project for the Buffalo Creek Reservoir, which is aimed at flood reduction. This project is unique because the reservoir is located, owned and operated by three different organizations. MWRDGC, the Lake County Forest Preserves and the Village of Buffalo Grove provide a multi-jurisdictional benefit to communities in both Lake and Cook Counties.

Some of the many benefits include:

  • Providing more than 180-acre feet of additional flood storage
  • Creating 1.3 miles of new trails
  • Over 30,000 native wetland and riparian plant plugs
  • 60 acres of upland prairie and buffer restoration
Project Photo

Buffalo Creek Reservoir

Stewardship of the Year – Andy Hay

Andy Hay, Trustee for the Village of Tower Lakes (VOTL), has a passion for stormwater management, community involvement and watershed management. Throughout his time as a member of the Tower Lakes Improvement Association (TLIA) and the VOTL, he has been a key supporter of many collaborative partnerships and projects to improve stormwater infrastructure and reduce flooding to his community. Andy was instrumental in the Rain Garden project for the VOTL and the TLIA. Over the last five years, Andy has led the planning, coordination, accounting, marketing and communication efforts for the development of two rain gardens in the Tower Lakes community, devoting more than 1,000 volunteer hours to the project. Andy’s project management skills, volunteer time, public education leadership and commitment to improving the environment make him the perfect candidate for the Stewardship of the Year Award. 

Andy Hay

Dave Parro (right), Village of Tower Lakes President, Presents Andy Hay (left) with the Stewardship of the Year Award

Richard A. Welton Stormwater Manager of the Year – Jim Bakk

The Richard A. Welton Stormwater Manager of the Year award is given to an individual or professional group that has made significant contributions to stormwater management and positively impacted Lake County’s watersheds. Jim Bakk, who retired in November 2019, was the legal counsel for the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission for 30 years. As a champion for stormwater management, Jim made momentous contributions on behalf of SMC. Jim was instrumental in the creation and development of SMC’s regulatory program, which included reviewing SMC’s Watershed Development Ordinance prior to being adopted by Lake County. His skills were a large asset during the isolated wetlands case, which went to the Illinois Supreme Court and won at every legal venue. Jim epitomizes the characteristics a candidate for the Richard A. Welton Stormwater Manager of the Year Award should embody.

Jim Bakk

From left to right: Mike Warner, SMC Executive Director; Jim Bakk; Craig Taylor, SMC Chairman and District 19 Lake County Board Member.