Illinois CTP Collaboration Success

Challenge

The Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS), part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Cooperating Technical Partner (CTP) that has been conducting all components of flood mapping in Illinois since 2005. Flood engineering studies can be time consuming and expensive. Standard approaches were limiting the number of stream miles that could be mapped with the funding available. 

Solution

To improve efficiencies in flood engineering and mapping, ISWS has been developing automated engineering tasks associated with the FEMA flood mapping process. ISWS has developed processes to extract flood flows from the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) StreamStats system and ArcMAP ModelBuilder, effectively automating the flow path lines and cross section setup for hydraulic modeling. During the last several years that ISWS has been developing its customized approach to this work, several collaborative relationships with other CTPs have developed.

An example of this collaborative relationship is the webinar that ISWS co-presented with fellow CTP, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (INDNR), and FEMA Headquarters entitled, “Cooperating Technical Partner Information Exchange: First Order Approximations.” ISWS walked through the details of its automated engineering workflow, including the debut of a hydrology automation tool that interacts with the USGS StreamStats web services. The presentation yielded a number of follow-up conversations with webinar attendees, including CTP colleagues in FEMA Region IX, who were provided the hydrology tool to evaluate for their engineering modeling activities.

During an Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) annual conference, ISWS presented a session titled, “DIY FOA for the CTP,” which described the workflow steps and in-house tools being used to model and map automated Hydrologic and Hydraulic evaluations. Several follow-up conversations with session attendees ensued, leading to an opportunity for ISWS to share their Coordinated Hazard Assessment and Mapping Program (CHAMP) and their custom ArcMAP ModelBuilder toolbox with a CTP colleague in Wisconsin, who was beginning to develop similar studies for their state. 

Outcome

Upon testing the provided ISWS tools, the CTP colleague discovered that an update to the USGS StreamStats web tool was causing CHAMP results to be shifted by one recurrence interval. This sharing and testing enabled this issue to be found soon after the StreamStats update, and it was corrected early in the project mapping processes. Wisconsin is in the process of initiating an automated engineering project. Having the code developed by ISWS will speed up and improve the processes that will be developed. 

Benefit

Sharing tools with other CTP colleagues resulted in collaborative relationships that benefited all parties involved. The external review helped improve the hydrology automation program and sharing the hydrology tool improved the efficiency of the automated engineering process for multiple CTP colleagues. The fact that programming code developed by CTPs is not proprietary and is freely shared helps reduce mapping costs and improves innovation among Mapping Partners. 

Lessons Learned

Assessment and Planning Program (Risk MAP) Phases 

This project involved the following Risk MAP phases: 

  • Discovery
  • Data Development and Sharing 
  • Proposed NFIP Map Changes and Impacts 

Risk MAP Goals Advanced

The Risk MAP goals that were advanced through this project included: 

  • Increased Deployment

Upon investigating the CHAMP tool bug, ISWS established a more robust code and discovered updates to the USGS StreamStats web service features that had not been available previously. Without this collaboration, ISWS would not have discovered and capitalized on these USGS changes as quickly. Automated engineering technology continues to evolve. By working together, Mapping Partners can bridge the gaps between FEMA’s automated engineering requirements and publicly available technology. 

Resources

USGS StreamStats Version 3.0 Web Services 

Contact Information

Sally McConkey at sally@illinois.edu

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Last updated April 28, 2021