New tool will help Cook County critical facilities reduce flooding impacts

December 15th, 2015 by
Flooding is always hard on a community, but when hospitals, mass transit, utilities, and others that impact the health and safety of residents are under water, these facilities may not be able to provide critical services or may even be forced to shut down. This leaves residents and businesses vulnerable to other threats and makes flood recovery ever more challenging.
To combat these hazards, IISG and the Midwestern RegionalClimate Center (MRCC) have joined forces with the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to assess the vulnerability of critical facilities throughout Cook County and to work directly with building managers on adaptation steps that could reduce their risks in the face of future flooding events.
The heart of the project is the Flood Vulnerability Assessment for Critical Facilities, which is an assessment tool. This set of questions will help Cook County managers determine a facility’s risk based on factors like its proximity to a flood plain, past flooding issues, stormwater drainage systems, and the location of key systems like back-up generators and computer servers. Facilities may also be able to use the tool to evaluate current emergency communication plans for heavy rainfall and determine whether improvements are necessary. After a pilot phase, the final assessment tool will be made available online for facilities beyond Cook County.
What’s more, to help managers plan with an eye on the future, the project team will use historic rainfall data and climate forecasts to pinpoint the frequency of heavy storms now and predict how that rate may change as the climate does. The Reducing Flooding Vulnerability of Chicago Critical Facilities project is led by Molly Woloszyn, IISG and MRCC extension climate specialist, and Beth Hall, MRCC director, with additional support from the Coordinated Hazard Assessment and Mapping Program at the Illinois StateWater Survey. Funding is provided through the National Sea Grant Office as part of the Community Climate Adaptation Initiative, which is focused on helping communities prepare for climate change.

This story appears in the latest edition of The Helm

Blue Island stormwater program gets major recognition

June 7th, 2013 by

With such a rainy and flood-producing spring, one’s thoughts may just turn to something practical–rain barrels. Let’s look back on last fall’s rain barrel project in Blue Island. 

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant was one of five lead partners in the “Blue Island, Blue Water” community-based program designed to reduce stormwater overflows and flooding issues in the Chicago suburb. Over the course of the project, more than 140 volunteers installed rain barrels at 33 different residential locations and three institutional buildings. Additionally, more than 1000 plants and nearly 100 trees were planted to help improve water management and beautify neighborhoods at the same time. 

Keeping water out of sewers also reduces run-off, which in turn reduces pollution in the Cal-Sag Channel. The Cal-Sag is an increasingly popular destination for Chicagoland kayakers and nature lovers, but the channel requires a strong commitment to water quality, since it runs through densely built residential and industrial areas that are potential sources of pollution. Thus, stormwater management in Blue Island represents a key effort in which ‘local, state and county governments work together to really make an impact in our neighborhoods,’ according to (zoning administrator and director of special projects Jason) Berry.”

The “Blue Island, Blue Water” project was also chosen as a 2012 Millenium Reserve Model Project. The project’s inclusion also makes it part of the President’s “America’s Great Outdoors Initiative,” which helps align federal efforts and funds with conservation and recreation projects on the local level where they can make real and immediate impacts. You can learn more about the project at the links above and at this ABC 7 news report from earlier this year. And read more about the Millennium Reserve’s place within the initiative here


CMAP wins award for water supply planning

January 25th, 2013 by
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) was recently recognized with a National Planning Excellence award for their work developing GO TO 2040 – a comprehensive regional plan that unites and coordinates seven counties infrastructure development.

Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant’s Margaret Schneeman, who works directly with CMAP, was involved in the plan development and implementation, and Martin Jaffe served on the Regional Water Supply planning group. Their efforts, combined with the expertise and work of dozens of individuals and agencies, resulted in the completion of the regional plan that will enhance sustainable development and planning throughout 284 communities in and around the Chicago area. 

The summarized plan can be read here, and you can visit the GO TO 2040 link above to read the complete plan.
The American Planning Association awards programs, individuals, and agencies that utilize and implement planning techniques designed to create more sustainable communities. Visit the National Planning Awards 2013 webpage to see the complete list of award winners, including information about the GO TO 2040 plan. 
You can also visit our Water Supply page to learn more about the importance of planning on water quality, safety, and availability.

In the news: Testing Lake Michigan water to maintain a safe shoreline

May 31st, 2012 by
With the Lake Michigan lakefront now open to swimmers for the season, the Chicago Park District will be using a new system to monitor bacteria level and ensure a safe swimming environment for visitors. 
From The Chicago Tribune: 
“Chicago’s new elaborate system of buoys and statistical models will monitor 16 of the city’s 24 beaches, and Park District officials are seeking grant money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to expand the system to cover all beaches by next summer.
The model will predict the levels of harmful bacteria at each beach using data on the location of sources of contamination, like colonies of sea gulls or sewer outlets; the motion of waves that can disturb bacteria growing in the sand; lake-current speeds; water temperature; and sunlight.”
Read more about the city’s new system for monitoring Lake Michigan here.
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