Speaking at the Association of State Flood Plain Managers (ASFPM) annual national conference in Atlanta on June 4, State Sen. Sue Rezin presented to local, state, and federal flood plain managers how the Illinois Valley Flood Resiliency Alliance (IVFRA) can be used as a model for any region in the country that deals with flooding.
“The Illinois Valley Flood Resiliency Alliance is something we established in 2014 after our region suffered major flood losses in 2013,” Rezin said. “The IVFRA brings communities, local governments, and emergency personnel together so everyone is on the same page and ready to go, in the inevitable event our rivers rise again. We are now better prepared for a flood event in our region because of it. An alliance like the IVFRA can work as a model for other regions in the country so they too can better prevent flood losses.”
Rezin spoke with the flood plain managers from across the country about the IVFRA and how it helps several entities come together to prepare for floods, through education, communication, education, and the purchasing of new flood prevention materials.
“A big reason why we established the IVFRA is because we were amazed at how little communication there was between our local communities up and down our rivers when there is a flood,” Rezin said. “This alliance makes sure everyone involved during a flood event is on the same page, while speaking and understanding the same terminology. That goes a long way in saving property, infrastructure, and lives.”
“There is a real interest in what Senator Rezin is doing, organizing people at the local level and building a collaborative effort to reduce flood losses,” said Mike Sutfin, the Building and Zoning Official from the City of Ottawa. “As a direct result of Senator Rezin’s involvement, there are now 24 new Certified Floodplain Managers in her district. This will have a very positive impact moving forward.”
In 2014, Sen. Rezin hosted a “Flood Fighting School” in Ottawa. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, LaSalle County Emergency Management, the City of Ottawa, and dozens of other community leaders, learned about proper sandbag preparation, how to build earth levees, common failure modes, and what new materials and technology is available that can make fighting floods easier, with less man power. The IVFRA originally included LaSalle, Grundy, Bureau, and Putnam counties. It has since added several more.
“We must be proactive, and having a plan in place will help us all battle the next major flood,” Rezin said. “Like these other communities around the country I spoke to at the national conference, it’s not a matter of if we will have another flood, but when we will have another flood.”
Sen. Rezin’s 38th Senate District has about 130 miles worth of river frontage, one of the most in the state. Ottawa alone is the watershed for 12,000 square miles. The state of Illinois has the largest collection of inland bodies of water and rivers in the continental United States. Twelve percent of surface in Illinois is mapped as a flood plain. In March, Sen. Rezin received the Illinois Association for Floodplain and Stormwater Management Legislation Award at the organization’s Annual Conference in Bloomington.