Lakeside Interceptor | Duluth, MN

How City Planners can Prepare for Large Storms

Eric Thompson, PE, CFM | with 0 Comments

How City Planners can Prepare for Large Storms

Midwest cities, like Madison, Wisconsin, get their fair share of precipitation each year. According to the National Climatic Data Center, Wisconsin’s capital city averaged 38.98 inches of precipitation in 2014, which is 8.34 inches more than 2013.  Increasing rainfall amounts are not anomalous to Madison, but are now anticipated with greater frequency across the Upper Midwest – along with increases in rainfall intensity. 
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently published updated rainfall depth and rainfall distribution data in NOAA Atlas 14 in many cases the estimated rainfall depths corresponding to typical flood events (e.g. the 100-yr rainfall) are significantly higher than reported in older documents.  This new data is being incorporated into state and local stormwater management requirements in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin and is resulting in substantial changes in the size and scope of stormwater management practices.
Stormwater and the resulting flooding can be very destructive (see Dubuque, Iowa). Flash floods can damage homes and businesses and cause injuries, sickness, and death. That’s why it’s important for city planners to work with civil engineers to understand the impacts that land use decisions can have on their communities.
The key is to reduce flood risk through implementation of sustainable development and redevelopment which typically include comprehensive stormwater and floodplain management components. Smart planning philosophies can take the form of floodplain awareness and stormwater management practices that look beyond the local development site and consider the entire watershed – think Low Impact Development (LID)
Knowing the risk that large storms can pose, city planners can start with educating community leaders and reaching out to the public for help in identifying needs and developing effective floodplain and stormwater management systems. The ideas generated by the team can then be implemented by civil engineers, which would tailor a system specific to the needs of the community. In some cases, a team of planners and engineers might also develop a stormwater utility for the community which could be used to fund flood mitigation projects.
MSA’s water resources team provides a complete range of services necessary to complete stormwater management systems. Additionally, we have a very successful track record for securing funding for stormwater management activities, through both grant programs and standalone revenue programs, such as stormwater utilities. Contact MSA’s Eric Thompson for more information.

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