Grandwood Lake / Grandwood Lake Dam

MAY 2019

The Lake Park Dam project is ending. The structural portions of the work has been completed. We have officially “saved the lake”.

Background: After a series of significant floods over a 5 year period, it became clear to both Lake County Storm Water Management Commission (LCSMC) and Grandwood Park Park District (GPPD), that the dam at Lake Park was in serious need of repair and/or replacement.

For those of you who have followed the saga, multiple studies of the Des Plains water system, the dam structure, the quality of the water, and the impact of a failure of the dam have been completed. During the years needed to complete the studies, the community continued to experience significant flooding at Lake Park as well as damage to adjacent properties. The Grandwood Lake Dam Rehabilitation Project construction was officially kicked off in November 2018.  A long and snowy winter postponed project completion until this spring.

Acknowledgements: Based on the documented need of the Park District to repair the dam, LCSMC was able to fund a matching grant to GPPD for the necessary work;  the Lake County Board approved the grant in 2018. Without these dollars, this project could not have been done.  Also, without the help of our own Lake County Board Member for District 7, Steve Carlson, advocating for the Park District and the residents of Grandwood Park and The Shires; and Mike Warner, the Executive Director of Lake County Storm Water Management Commission stepping up to advise and oversee the project work, this project could not have been started or completed.  A special call out to the team of dedicated LCSMC engineers overseeing the project EVERYDAY  during the work.

Warren Township has always provided strong support to Grandwood Park Park District. They have routinely stepped up to help whenever the neighborhood has experienced a storm-related problem.  We are grateful for everything they have done from down tree/debris removal to sandbags and street closures support. Thank you Amy Sarver and Sue Simpson.

Next Steps: The new dam configuration includes an 80 foot spillway that is armored with stone. Please be aware, during high water events, you should expect to see water crossing over the sidewalk, it is part of the secondary spillway.  This spillway will allow the overflow that would normally cause flooding in the park to be directed through a controlled area, over stone, and the wetland, back to the creek. The design of berms with the secondary spillway was created by IMEG engineering and approved by the IDNR. The new configuration of the dam and spillway design will also prevent any further flooding on the north side of the dam, including the sports courts. 

The turf areas have been seeded and blanketed with straw.  We will all be watching for new growth. Mowing will be allowed after approximately 8 weeks when the grass has had a chance to put down strong roots.

The Army Corp of Engineers has also been involved in the designation of a “High Quality Wetland” at the base of the secondary spillway. New educational signage will be installed to identify the wetland area.

Though outside the scope of the Dam Rehab project, the below grade sidewalk on the north side of the lake was removed prior to the project start to take advantage of the enhanced elevation of the new berm configuration. Excess fill removed as part of the project was relocated to the north side. Seeding and a new walkway will be completed this summer by the Park District.

A Grand Opening of Lake Park is planned for this summer, the date TBD.  Please stay tuned for that upcoming event and our next project to enhance the lake and parks of GPPD.  (formerly known as Save the Lake).

APRIL 2019

Work is underway again!


Work continues. Unfortunately, during the last rainstorm, and now with melting snow, the work area has been flooded which halted construction for a little over a week. But the construction crew is back at it! During construction it is necessary to have a pump running continuously to keep water out of the worksite. We are sorry for any inconvenience this causes, but we have no control over it and hope the weather stays on our side so work can continue until completed.


The Grandwood Park Lake Dam Rehabilitation project has begun! It’s exciting to finally kick off the project that is necessary to SAVE OUR LAKE. You may notice large earth moving machines and semi trucks of stone coming and going. Please be assured that the work being done is what is required by state and local jurisdiction to be compliant with safety regulations/policy.

This is one of the largest projects ever done by the Grandwood Park Park District. It has required a monumental effort, patience and tenacity to bring Lake County, The Army Corp. of Engineers, and Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources together to address the persistent issues caused by the dam.

The necessary approvals and permits were received this month (November) and work began within a few days of the preconstruction meeting. Our contractor, Copenhaver Construction, has started the necessary tree removal and prep needed to begin the excavation work. The lake will be lowered to enable demolition and rebuilding around the dam and will be restored when new cement walls have been constructed and stone armory is completed.

There is a significant back story to this project. Grandwood Park was fortunate to inherit a lovely lake and park, created by a farmer long before the subdivision was built. 

Over time, we have experienced persistent flooding and deteriorating conditions of the dam. In 2014 a major flood event brought our dam situation to light and the Park District has been working with state and local officials to find a solution. The project will take approximately 6 weeks to complete. Due to weather the final completion of sidewalks will not be done until spring of 2019.

In summary, In 2014, the Park District had an evaluation done. The dam was determined to be in imminent failure.  Work was done to prevent potentially catastrophic problems, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the next major flooding  event from furthering the problems. In 2016 the Park District partnered with LCSMC to apply for a matching grant to rehabilitate the dam. The Lake County Board approved the grant in late.2017. Since then, we bid out the project (winter 2018) and have been working with IMEG, our Engineering firm, to obtain the necessary permits from IDNR and Army Corp.

The Park District is fortunate to have the continued support of Lake County Stormwater Management who will be providing daily engineering and project management support, and Warren Township Highway Dept. who will help with demo and road maintenance. We want to thank Harlan and his team, IMEG; SteveCarlson, Lake County; Mike Warner and his team, SMC, Melinda Bush's office, the IDNR Offices, and the Commissioners of the Park District. This project would not have happened without all of you.



The Grandwood Lake Dam Rehabilitation project update

About two years ago, the residents of Grandwood ParkPark District were told about the deteriorating dam located in Lake Park. At the time, experts had evaluated the structure and determined the dam was at a point of failure.

The obstacles facing the GPPD board were both short term and long term. How could we make the park safe for residents, and develop a longer term solution that was fiscally practical? 

The first step was to install new stronger dam plates with the thought this might be all that was needed. That was until the dam was over topped and the park flooded during a “100 year rain” in July 2017.  At that point the County, FEMA, IDNR and the Army Corp Of Engineers became aware of our dam.

It has taken some time for the Park District and Lake County Stormwater Management to identify a potential solution to meet the requirements of these agencies, and still be something that could be paid for without additional tax levies. In 2017, our problem was taken to the Lake County Board by Commissioner Steve Carlson.  With the help and support of Mike Warner, Executive Director of Lake County Stormwater Management, the proposal to rehabilitate the dam was presented. Despite budget pressures at the county level, the county board approved a matching grant of $157,000.

The current status; the Park District, Lake County Stormwater Management and IMEG (formerly known as McClure Engineering) have developed detailed plans for the rehabilitation project; the project was bid out and awarded to Copenhaver Construction, and the requisite paperwork has been submitted for permits. Our application is being evaluated, questions are being addressed and information provided. We anticipate a permit in the next 60 days, with work starting shortly afterwords. The project will take approximately 4-6 weeks. Detail plans are available at the Park District office.


When a new date is available, it will be posted.

COMMUNITY MEETING PLANNED - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 at 6:00 p.m.

Park District Community Center
36630 N. Hutchins Rd., Gurnee

Join representatives from the Park District, and Lake County Storm Water Management Commission to hear the latest update on Grandwood Lake and the Grandwood Lake Dam Rehabilitation Project.


JULY 2017 Photos of work to stabilize dam during flood





More to come .....


JUNE 2017 Update:  Possible Grant for Grandwood Park Lake Dam Rehabilitation

Grandwood Park Lake Dam came to the attention of Lake County Stormwater Management Commission (SMC) after the 2013 flooding in Lake County. Since that time, the Park District has been working with Lake County to make necessary improvements toward the goals of public safety and asset management for Grandwood Park.

This spring the failing weir plates were replaced with 1 inch steel plates. The bridge, though banged up and showing its age, has been inspected by an engineer and is safe for foot traffic for at least another year. However, the wing walls and the cement apron of the dam structure need to be replaced to ensure public safety and to maintain our existing assets.

To help control the costs and continue to rehabilitate the dam, the Park District is partnering with SMC to submit a grant application for the Rehabilitation of the Grandwood Park Lake Dam. The conceptual work plan includes; removing the existing bridge, wing walls and the wood retaining walls along the downstream side of the dam. The banks will be graded to the water and large boulders and rock will be placed at the water's edge. The pedestrian bridge will be replaced with a structure that gives a little more room between the top of the dam and the bottom of the bridge. This change allows more water to pass over the dam during high water events. Additional large rock will be added to the downstream side of the weir plates to minimize water scouring and erosion downstream.

Timing: the grant has been submitted. Decisions will not be made until December. Should it be approved, work would begin next spring/summer and the Park District will be responsible for 50% of the costs associated with the project.



Statement from Mike Warner, Director, Stormwater Management Commission regarding the dam:

Recap of previous actions:

A. Late in 2016, the decision was made to remove the failing steel plates under the dam structure, as sudden failure of those plates would have created an unsafe structural situation for the dam and a flood wave that could have potentially damaged the park and downstream properties.

B. A sheet pile dam was installed a few months ago in front of the steel plating

C. The failing steel plating was removed

D. During the recent extended rainfall events in late March through early April, the sheet piling that was installed was being overtopped, and has partially failed along one side, which will eventually dewater the lake to a lower level and expose the lake bottom.

E. From a downstream flow standpoint, there is not a concern that the flow in the partially failed ‘ruptured' condition will exceed the flow that was previously overtopping the plates.

F. Concerns now include: ensuring scour and erosion don't occur around the existing concrete; and ultimate design of a replacement for the lake outflow structure.

Please note:

1. There is no concern that dewatering the lake will create a condition where the lake cannot refill itself.

Grandwood Park Lake is approximately 9 acres in surface area.
If it is assumed the lake is an average of 10 feet deep, the lake would hold 90 acre-feet of water.
The tributary area to Grandwood Park Lake is approximately 19.5 square miles as shown below.
One half of an inch (½") of rainfall runoff from the upstream 19.5 square miles will generate nearly 520 acre-feet of volume.
That small storm event creates enough volume to fill the lake 5 times, within one to three days.

2. Allowing the lake to dewater, creates a safer condition (low/no water pressure concern) near the outlet to rebuild the outlet structure into whatever design is ultimately chosen.

3. With a lower water level, the physical construction process will be easier for access and workmanship considerations and lower the cost of construction for the chosen design.

4. Right now, all ideas on reconstruction are being accepted and considered, with an eye on cost of the solution and long-term effects.

5. There is currently a short-term plan in process to place large rock around the rupture to address potential erosion around the existing concrete structure. The amount of rock placed will be determined based on achieving the desired protection and will be a call made during the rock placement operation.

6. Rock placement and an engineering design meeting is scheduled for Monday (4/10) to discuss all options on the table.

Michael D. Warner, PE, CFM
Lake County Stormwater Management Commission
500 Winchester Road, Libertyville, IL 60048



The Park District is aware of the break in the temporary dam.  A repair was attempted on Tuesday evening, but due to high water and extreme pressure, that repair did not hold.  We have been advised that we should not attempt another repair until the current high water in the area goes down.  Our first concern is for the safety of our residents.  We continue to work with engineers and Lake County to develop short-term and long-term options.






The temporary coffer dam is in place, the steel weirs of the dam have been removed, and the immediate risk of failure has been remedied. The enginnering firm contracted for this work, McClure Engineering, is in the process of evaluating the condition of the dam structure, and will submit a report to the Board of Commissioners once it is complete.




The walkway over the dam has been closed. The coffer dam to remove the risk of sudden failure of the dam is being installed. The next step is to remove the steel weirs that hold back the water, then have a complete evaluation of the structure. Stay tuned for updates .....









COMMUNITY MEETING - Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Join representatives from the Park District, and Lake County Storm Water Management Commission to review the results of the Dam Inspection and Repair Recommendation report. Cost estimates and next steps will be discussed for the following options:

  • Rehabilitation of the dam (approx. $900,000)
  • Replacement of the dam (approx. $1,700,000)
  • Do nothing at this time (approx. $2,000,000 - $5,000,000 when it fails)

The Grandwood Lake Dam impacts all tax payers in the Grandwood Park Park District

The Park District encourages everyone in the community to attend this IMPORTANT MEETING

WHEN:     Tuesday, September 13, 2016

TIME:       6:30 p.m.

WHERE:   Grandwood Park Park District

                 Community Center
                 36630 N. Hutchins Rd.
                 Gurnee, IL 60031

Please contact the park district office at 847-356-0008 if you would like to view either of the below documents:

Dam Inspection and Repair Recommendations
Sept 13 2016 Grandwood Lake Dam presentation 



The water level flowing over the dam finally subsided enough for the structural evaluation to be safely completed. The Park District is now waiting for the written evaluation from M Squared Engineering.



Unfortunately, there is no change to the information below ... 



The structural inspection was started on Decmeber 4, 2015. However, it could not be safely completed due to the high level of water flowing over the dam weirs. At this time, we are waiting for the water level to drop to allow for a safe structural inspection. Both SMC staff and M Squared Engineering staff are monitoring the water levels in the lake/over the dam. The water levels over the dam may not drop until after the spring thaw. We will update this status as we receive additional information.


Please contact the park district office at 847-356-0008 if you would like to view the following document:

October 22 2015 Special Session     (minutes from Special Public meeting on 10/22/2015)



 October 22, 2015  at  6:30 p.m.

Grandwood Park Park District
Community Center
36630 N. Hutchins Rd.


Lake County Stormwater Management (SMC)
Intergrated Lakes Management (ILM)


 Can we save the lake?

Are we at risk?

Why now - what's changed?


The Park District has been asked, "What is all this about?", and "Why now - What's changed?".

Information that will be shared at the meeting:

  • Des Plaines watershed project findings
  • Grandwood Lake Water Quality Study
  • Evaluation of the Lake and Dam Structure
  • Possible Options, associated cost estimates, and the impacts to our community
  • Next steps

This PUBLIC MEETING is to inform residents, answer your questions, and provide an opportunity for a Q&A with the experts.




The Grandwood Lake dam was constructed in 1941 by the impoundment of Mill Creek. In the 1960s, the area surrounding the lake was subdivided for residential development, leading to the establishment of the Grandwood Park Park District (GPPD) in 1965. In the fall of 2014, personnel from the Lake County Stormwater Management Commission (SMC) reviewed the condition of the dam and identified significant structural concerns, including settling, cracking, and erosion around the dam structure that could lead to its failure.


***** The photos below are EXAMPLES of the natural changes to the lake that would occur IF a dam removal project were to ever happen in Grandwood Park.  The Park District Board of Commissioners have not made any decisions -- the process is in the investigative stages and ALL information will be shared with the community *****

 The GPPD retains liability for the dam structure and is responsible for any damages that may be caused as a result of its failure. For this reason, the GPPD has begun investigating the feasibility of removing the Grandwood Lake Dam. The Lake County SMC evaluated various flood scenarios and determined that removing the dam would not increase flood elevations, and in some cases actually lower the flood risk associated with Mill Creek.

One potential dam removal scenario involves removing the overflow weirs that currently hold the lake in place, retaining the dam structure to serve as a pedestrian crossing. In place of the lake, a wet prairie would be established, through which Mill Creek would flow as a free-flowing stream just as it did prior to installation of the dam. A series of walking trails and even a fishing pond could be established to allow for direct recreational interaction with the area.

The GPPD has secured grant funding through the Lake County Watershed Management Assistance Grant to develop a public outreach campaign that will educate residents about the benefits of dam removal and prepare the way for an eventual removal project to take place within Grandwood Park.

In the coming months, public meetings will be announced, and information will be made available to residents at local community events. The GPPD hopes to establish a dialog with the residents about this important focal point within our community.


If you wish to see any of the documentation below, please contact the Park District office at (847) 356-0008.


2014 Juy Presentation Agenda

FINAL Mill Creek Stream Inventory Summary 

2014 Aug Presentation Agenda 

2014 September Presentation Agenda 

2015 March Presentation Agenda

SMC Dam Evaluation and Removal Scenarios 

2015 May Presentation 

2015 June Presentation Agenda 

2015 July Presentation 

2015 August - Grandwood Lake & Dam - Update