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Lakeview, Wrigleyville, Northalsted

Lakeview Neighbors ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ Mature Trees Can Be Saved As City Explores Ways To Replace Century-Old Water Main

After outcry from neighbors, the city is exploring whether the Lakeview water main can be relocated so fewer trees will need to be cut down.

The Chicago Water Department said trees will be removed on a case-by-case basis depending on how close they are to the water main.
Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago

LAKEVIEW — Plans to replace a century-old water main in Lakeview have been put on hold while the city explores ways to restore the pipes without destroying up to 29 mature trees.

Most of the trees are along the east side of Paulina Street between Belmont and Lincoln avenues, with 19 trees flagged along the route for possible removal, Anthony Falada, general superintendent of construction for the Department of Water Management, said during a December community meeting. And an additional 10 trees could be removed along School and Melrose streets, which run perpendicular to Paulina.

The trees are planted on the parkways along those streets and situated above pipes that were installed in 1889, officials said. The pipes to be replaced to prevent breaks or leaks.

That work was scheduled to begin in mid-January, but the construction was put on hold while the Water Department explores whether the Paulina water main can be moved toward the west side of the street to limit the number of trees affected, according to Ald. Matt Martin (47th).

“For a long while now, I’ve asked DWM to explore other potential placements of the water main so as to have a less severe impact on the existing mature trees,” Martin said. “Part of that has involved looking at different Illinois EPA regulations that permit the placement of a new water main within 10 feet of an existing sewer main, so long as certain conditions are met.”

Although Falada said that relocating the water main was “not possible because of the other utilities under the street,” the Water Management Department is now working with the city’s Office of Underground Coordination to determine whether the pipes actually can be moved.

“They’re working through the OUC process right now to see what, if any, concerns other utilities have, and then they’ll work through those as expeditiously as possible,” Martin said. “So that’s what’s being actively explored right now with regard to the Paulina water main.”

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
Neighbors are rallying to save the trees from being removed.

For the 10 trees along the side streets, the Department of Water Management is preparing a request for proposals for a contractor that can conduct sewer pipe lining on the drains, Martin said. Pipe lining is a “no dig” process for repairing and replacing sewer lines that involves inserting a tube of resin-coated pipe liner into the existing pipes to repair any breaks or cracks.

“The possibility of doing pipe lining would have less of an impact on the existing trees,” Martin said.

Neighbors have been organizing to save the mature trees for months, arguing their removal would affect the area’s environment, property values and charm.

Caroline Teichner, who lives just north of the area where the work will happen, said she’s “cautiously optimistic” that the water department will find an alternative way to replace the pipes without having to replace 29 trees.

“We know the outcome of this depends on what the other utilities have to say, but beyond that we don’t have any insight into how successful this will be in reducing the number of trees that are affected,” Teichner said. “For all we know, the improvement will be 22 trees are cut down instead of 29, so we’re waiting to see what they come back with.”

Megan Vidis, a spokesperson for the Department of Water Management, said it’s “committed to minimizing the possible environmental impact on the surrounding area when construction is necessary.”

The removal of trees will be determined on a case-by-case basis with forestry services from the Department of Streets and Sanitation, Vidis said.

“This is particularly true when it comes to decisions around old growth trees where we explore every option available to prevent their removal,” Vidis said.

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
Nearly two dozen mature trees could be removed along Paulina Street in Lakeview for water main work to happen.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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