PONTOON BEACH — On Dec. 26, heavy rain fell throughout Pontoon Beach and produced massive flooding, forcing residents from two mobile home parks to evacuate.
“What happened was the day after Christmas, the river was up above flood stage and we had a substantial amount of rain,” Pontoon Beach Mayor Mike Pagano said. “Long Lake got backed up. So many people got flooded out here. We had to evacuate people and dogs in boats. This had been going on for three weeks. They had no place to go.”
On June 24, 19 people, including Pagano, met for an hour at the Nameoki Township building to discuss ways to prevent future flooding problems.
“The information that we gathered today is going to help get us in the right direction,” said Nameoki Township Supervisor Randy Viessman, who provided lunch. “That was one reason I called (this meeting today). We really didn’t know who to contact to talk about the problems we had. The information we’re getting from natural resources and the county and the senator has put us in a direction where we can go to get help.”
One of those solutions is lowering Horseshoe Lake from its level of 403.6 feet.
“Horseshoe is a big hole in the area for us,” Pagano said. “If we can get the water out fast enough, it’s not a big problem. If you see in the pictures in December on how bad it was out here, it was unbelievable. All of the trailer parks were under water. We worked furiously for weeks and weeks trying to rescue these people. Every time we get a big rain, everybody in Pontoon starts (evacuating) because they know that lake is coming up. They can’t get out fast enough. Even if that lake is lowered, they can’t get out of here fast enough.”
Also at the meeting were state Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton), Madison County Board Chairman Alan J. Dunstan, Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer, Madison County Planning and Development Administrator Matt Brandmeyer, Juneau Associates Vice-President Joe Juneau, members of the Metro East Sanitary District and Illinois Department of Natural Resources director Wayne Rosenthal.
“The only way that we’re going to fix problems is by talking to each other,” Rosenthal said. “So the opportunity to come down here and listen to what problems you have and what we can or can’t do, that’s what we wanted to. If we can help, we’ll try. If we can’t, we’ll tell you why we can’t and what you have to do for things we can’t do.”
Pagano said the flooding six months ago angered Pontoon Beach residents. After the flooding hit the village, Nameoki United Township Church in Granite City became a shelter for 60 people.
“You guys are not hearing the phone calls I’m getting,” the Pontoon Beach mayor said. “These residents don’t understand.”
Horseshoe Lake is 2,400 acres and it is the second-largest natural lake in Illinois behind Lake Michigan.
Hagnauer said he thinks the lake’s level should be lowered to prevent more flooding problems.
“Why can’t we take that lake down to 399 or 398, so that whatever water can go in can at least get in there?” the Granite City Mayor said.
Haine said he was pleased that Rosenthal, who was appointed as DNR director in January 2015, was able to attend.
“I appreciate the director for coming here personally,” he said.
Viessman said Haine came up with the idea of having another meeting at the township building. They also had a meeting there on March 30.
“He wants to help us,” Viessman said. “He called me and said, ‘Would you put together another meeting where we can have some discussion.’ We can get information as to who does what. Right now, we didn’t know who to talk to and he does.”