Creating Resiliency for Jack­sonville

Creating Resiliency for Jack­sonville
City of Jacksonville Florida, USA
Jack­sonville, Florida has partnered with CDM Smith for three decades to manage risk and promote resiliency through integrated stormwater management.

Known as “the River City,” Jack­sonville is defined by an abundance of water including the Atlantic Ocean, Intra­coastal Waterway and St. Johns River. Jack­sonville’s proximity to water, along with its beautiful beaches, U.S. Navy bases and status as a trans­porta­tion hub, provides steady population growth and a booming economy—but it also brings major flood risk. And, over the years, the water quality and ecosystem of the St. Johns River has been impacted by nutrients, bacteria and metals, throwing off nature’s delicate balance. 

To combat these issues while also working to reduce flooding and improve water quality, the city entered into a three-decade-long partnership with CDM Smith and the St. Johns River Water Management District to find solutions and establish standards. The result was a compre­hen­sive master stormwater management plan (MSMP), one of the first of its kind in the U.S., which has guided the city through a broad range of improve­ments and investments.

years of partnership between Jacksonville and CDM Smith
square miles of tributaries encompassed by SWMMs
in grants and loans secured

Jack­sonville’s multi-phase plan, continually revisited since its initiation, has addressed stormwater management from every angle. Its elements include:

  • Identifying and cate­go­riz­ing potential flooding, erosion and water quality problem areas
  • Estab­lish­ing a monitoring network and database
  • Developing, calibrating and applying U.S. Envi­ron­men­tal Protection Agency Stormwater Management Models (SWMMs) for 64 sub-basins in the area serving nine major tributaries to the St. Johns river, covering 800 square miles
  • Developing flood control and water quality improvement approaches 
Through continuous focus and improvement on this plan, Jack­sonville has been driving successful improve­ments for 30 years. CDM Smith has provided stormwater expertise, technical support and funding proficiency, helping Jack­sonville secure $4.45M in grants and loans to support its projects.

More Cost-Effective Stormwater Management
By using natural systems like landscaping, swales, wetland restoration, regional wet detention facilities and stormwater harvesting, Jack­sonville has been able to save on imple­men­ta­tion and life-cycle costs versus traditional “gray” infra­struc­ture. And because the city recognized the increased cost demands associated with modern stormwater management, the Jack­sonville Stormwater Utility was created to sustainably fund projects, programs and services associated with the plan. The Stormwater Utility generates the revenue needed to maintain and improve the city’s stormwater management system and meet both state and federal require­ments to protect various natural waterways. 

Ultimately, a bold approach has helped to save the city millions by driving cost-effective infra­struc­ture improve­ments. Coor­di­nat­ing stormwater investments with other ongoing projects, like the Better Jack­sonville Plan for infra­struc­ture and envi­ron­men­tal improve­ments, helped achieve greater impacts for less money. And by targeting spending in the right places for the community’s needs and future growth, better models and tools helped Jack­sonville make its investments go further and last longer.

Not only have we been able to address the city’s current challenges, we’ve also been able to create the capacity for Jacksonville’s continued growth in the years to come.
MIKE SCHMIDT, practice leader for water resources

Adding Value to Map Modern­iza­tion 
When the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began a nationwide effort to improve the nation’s floodplain maps in 2006, Jack­sonville enlisted the help of CDM Smith to produce Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs) that would accurately represent the city’s current topography as well as provide information on up-to-date riverine and coastal flooding hazards. Jack­sonville’s stormwater models were updated and enhanced to reflect the latest data and technology, including a dynamic floodway evaluation tool for SWMM. Assistance from the Florida Division of Emergency Management allowed for even more precise mapping with remote sensing via the Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) method, which uses pulsating light to generate 3D information about the area’s surface char­ac­ter­is­tics.

Building on the technical improve­ments in mapping, the project utilized GIS technology and decision-support software to identify and prioritize capital improvement projects. Ultimately, the city was able to use FEMA’s map modern­iza­tion program as a springboard to further advance its ability to invest wisely. CDM Smith’s assistance earned the city Cooperating Technical Partner (CTP) recognition from FEMA.

Empowering the Community to Take Part
The map modern­iza­tion process was a challenging technical exercise that involved an extensive outreach effort to inform and educate the public. More than 1,300 citizen reports of flooding throughout the area were documented and used to identify areas in need of updated floodplain maps. So once FEMA approved of the modernized maps, CDM Smith began reaching out to local technical partners and asking them to review, comment and use the results from the study. By putting value on public education and community outreach, the city was able to encourage and empower the entire community to participate in creating resiliency.
“Jack­sonville’s holistic approach to stormwater management has helped the city pay for needed improve­ments, manage risk and create valuable oppor­tu­ni­ties to enhance quality of life,” says Mike Schmidt, CDM Smith senior vice president and technical strategy leader for water resources, and a Jack­sonville resident. “Not only have we been able to address the city’s current challenges, we’ve also been able to create the capacity for Jack­sonville’s continued growth in the years to come.”
By proactively preparing for and addressing flooding, water quality improve­ments, tropical storm surges and sea level rise, Jack­sonville has managed costs, supported growth and protected natural assets. The ongoing focus on its MSMP as a strategic priority has delivered a strong return on investments, and makes the city of Jack­sonville one of the nation’s leading examples of effectively creating resiliency.
Mike Schmidt Mike Schmidt
Jack­sonville’s holistic approach has helped pay for needed improve­ments, manage risk and enhance quality of life.

Creating Resiliency is a Community Effort
Stakeholder involvement has been vital to project success, including 1,300 citizen reports used to help reduce flooding and local technical partners providing review of study results.

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