SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Six years ago, a storm dropped more than five inches of rain on Scott Air Force Base in less than six hours, causing flash floods across the base. Parking lots were submerged, Airmen couldn’t get to their cars, and several buildings, including the 375th Air Mobility Wing headquarters, were damaged.
There were several factors that caused the flooding that year and in the years that followed. So, to mitigate or prevent any future flooding events, a Storm Water Management Working Group was formed with base and community members as part of the base’s ongoing Community Partnership P4 (public-public/public-private) efforts.
The Lower Silver Creek watershed, a 126,000 acre area, drains into Silver Creek in St. Clair County and portions of Madison and Clinton Counties. Eight municipalities fall within the watershed boundaries. With 2,781 acres of land in the watershed, Scott Air Force Base, like the eight other municipalities, is impacted by the hydrology of Silver Creek.
“Hydrology is how water flows and the properties of that water,” said Mary Vandevord, chief executive officer, Heartlands Conservancy, a non-profit that works with communities and landowners on environmental issues. “The makeup of the land of Silver Creek and of the land around it both up and downstream - the natural elevation of these lands, the number and types of trees and other vegetation– all of these things impact the movement of the water.”
Silver Creek flows into the Kaskaskia River, but during prolonged storms, the water can cause significant damage before it gets there. Because Scott and the communities are affected by Silver Creek, together they drafted a Lower Silver Creek Watershed Plan, which identifies measures to promote a healthy, functioning watershed.
The plan outlines six primary goals:
- Improve Surface Water Quality
- Reduce Flooding/Mitigate Flood Damage
- Promote Environmentally Sensitive Development
- Support Healthy Habitats
- Develop Organizational Frameworks
- Conduct Education and Outreach
Col. Joseph Meyer, installation and 375th Air Mobility Wing commander, explained, “This plan provides a complete picture of how water on base and in the nearby communities naturally flow. It’s a proactive approach to protecting the integrity of the watershed to keep water flowing as it should, which reduces the likelihood of future flooding on base, mitigates water damage, and keeps the mission on track.”
Aaron Nickolotsky, Water Program Manager, 375th Civil Engineer Squadron, added, “The plan is important because it brings the stakeholders together to properly manage and maintain the watershed. A well-maintained watershed is integral to ensuring storm water flows freely and smoothly into the river.”
The next step towards implementing the Lower Silver Creek Watershed Plan is a memorandum of understanding signed by Scott Air Force Base, St. Clair and Madison Counties, and local mayors. The memorandum can then be attached to applications for grant monies to fund the plan’s recommended projects to meet these six goals. The 375th CES is also creating a charter to formalize the Storm Water Management Working Group’s structure and membership.
To read the Lower Silver Creek Watershed Plan, go to https://www.heartlandsconservancy.org/cmsb/uploads/lower-silver-creek-watershed-based-plan-final.pdf