Iowa Bridge Sensor Project wins ASFPM’s 2019 Tom Lee State Award for Excellence

Jun 26, 2019 | News & Views, What's New

Dr. Ibrahim Demir with the Iowa Flood Center and last year’s Outreach Award winner accepted the award on behalf of the Iowa Bridge Sensor Project. He’s standing with ASFPM’s Past Chair Maria Cox Lamm and Executive Director Chad Berginnis.
The Tom Lee State Award for Excellence is
given annually to recognize an outstanding floodplain management program or activity at the state level.

After extensive
flooding across Iowa in 2008, the Iowa Flood Center
developed and maintains a statewide network of stream stage sensors designed to
measure stream height and automatically transmit data to the IFC. These
sensors, which are installed on bridges, measure stage only. And while they
don’t match the quality of the USGS gauges, they come in at a fraction of the
cost. Iowa has already installed hundreds of them through the Iowa Bridge Sensor Project.

A recent USACE Silver
Jackets pilot project developed a protocol for creating stage-discharge rating
curves for several bridge sensors. The hope is that that enhancing information
provided by the sensors will increase their use for flood warning and
forecasting purposes. The sensors fill a gap where USGS gauges don’t exist and
provide a valuable flood warning tool. The average bridge sensor costs $3,500
to deploy, $2,500 for cross section by USACE, $1,000 for HEC-RAS model
development and application of a rating curve at $1,500 for a total combined
cost of $8,500. The bridge sensors are water and weatherproof and have shown little need for maintenance. What’s great is
that IFC has made available a website with all of the sensors so citizens can check them
whenever they wish. The Iowa Bridge Sensor Project, with support from Iowa DNR, IDOT and research projects at the
University of Iowa and Iowa State University, is a perfect example of
recognizing a need for the state, and coming up with an affordable solution
that will increase the safety of all their residents during potential flood