Integrating floodplain and stormwater management: Q&A with Shaun Gannon
Shaun Gannon has more than 20 years of experience in hydrologic and hydraulic modeling related to watershed management, flood resiliency, dam safety regulations, interior flood control, hydraulic structures, and flood insurance studies. He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a Diplomate of the American Academy of Water Resource Engineers, an American Institute of Hydrology Professional Hydrologist, an Association of State Floodplain Managers Certified Floodplain Manger, and a Project Management Institute certified Project Management Professional.
We sat down with Shaun to learn more about how he’s working to integrate the management of floodplains and stormwater for cleaner, healthier water.
Q. How are your projects making a difference in the world?
A: Having your home and property damaged by a flood is emotional, personal, and devastating. We can relate to the images of people sifting through their photo albums, mucking out their basements, and throwing out their clothing, furniture, and family heirlooms after being affected by a flood. But developing solutions to make communities more flood resilient, and creating projects that are helping residents and improving the economy and health and safety of our people and communities—that is both exciting and rewarding.
The projects I work on can take years to get from funding through design to execution. While that can be frustrating at times, these projects have a 100-year design life, and that requires a lot of attention to detail. So, we know that when a project is completed, we have designed and built something that is going to make a lasting difference and improve the community.
Q. How are you contributing to OBG as a thought leader in integrated floodplain and stormwater management?
A: OBG started its integrated stormwater initiative recognizing that solutions need to be holistic and watershed based. My background is in complex hydrologic and hydraulic modeling, and using vast data sets of historic and current conditions to predict the volume, depth, and location of flooding. What I like most about my field and job are first, working with a team of engineers, scientists, urban / natural resource planners, and community engagement specialists to achieve successful outcomes; and second, transferring my experience and knowledge to younger staff.
Q: Can you talk about some of the interesting projects you’re working on?
A: One of the most exciting projects we are working on is the Sauquoit Creek Channel and Floodplain Restoration Project in Whitestown, NY. This project focuses on increasing the resiliency of the creek through construction of innovative floodplain 'benches' that will store and slow floodwaters and protect downstream communities.
From the beginning, we recognized that we needed a solution that would fit into the commercial and residential land use bordering the creek. We worked with the Town of Whitestown and local business and residents to identify 12 floodplain benches to reconnect the Sauquoit Creek to its historic floodplain. Using two-dimensional hydraulic modeling of historic storms, our team designed the shape, elevation, and plantings of each bench to achieve bed stability and manage sediment and ice. We also have been supporting public outreach and engagement through community meetings, meetings with individual property owners, media interviews, and community newsletters. This fall, the Town will break ground on the first two flood benches, with plans to construct additional benches through 2020.
Another interesting project is reducing combined sewer overflows for the City of Utica, NY. Different from Sauquoit Creek (which concerns riverine flooding), this project involves designing storm-sanitary sewer separations to reduce or eliminate combined sewer overflows into local waterbodies and improve water quality of the Mohawk River. As part of this project, I have been working to build and calibrate a stormwater runoff model to help design separation projects and then, through real-time monitoring, confirm the projects are working as planned.
Q: How did your prior experience prepare you for the work you do at OBG?
A: Today, we take technologies like Google Earth, Bing Maps, laser scanning, and satellite imaging for granted. But 20 years ago, these technologies were used only by universities and the military. Now, we use them daily on all our mobile devices.
I was lucky enough to have gotten into the field of floodplain engineering, management, and resiliency when remote sensing technologies were becoming commercial products, and when large gains were being made on computer computational power. I had the good fortune of working with a team combining technologies with traditional engineering practices to create software that could aid engineers in creating more accurate and detailed flood studies and floodplain maps.
Today, I use this experience to guide my team in developing models that best reflect the behavior of watersheds during storm events, evaluating alternatives, and establishing design parameters.
Q. How is OBG’s water brand making a difference?
A: As a brand, we are working together across disciplines to find ways to solve problems. Our team is diverse, comprised of engineers, scientists, urban / natural resource planners, and public engagement specialists. Inside these disciplines, we have team members specializing in hydrology, river and sewer system hydraulics, green infrastructure, land-use / reuse planning, ecology, permitting, site design, community engagement, landscape architecture, hazard mitigation and resiliency, riverine ice, and construction management. We make a difference by using the depth of our team to find, design, and execute solutions.
Shaun can be contacted at Shaun.Gannon@obg.com.
Learn more about how OBG brings the latest thinking to some of today’s most challenging areas—from advanced water treatment to sediment management and emerging contaminants; resilient energy, water, and coastal infrastructure; and smart manufacturing—in our Insights from OBG Thought Leaders video.