New Program To Provide State-of-the-Art Floodplain Maps for Illinois, Illinois State Water Survey

Press Release

For Immediate Release April 11, 2005
New Program To Provide State-of-the-Art Floodplain Maps for Illinois
Sally A. McConkey - (217) 333-5482,
Eva Kingston - (217) 244-7270, Fax: (217) 333-6540,

Many of Illinois’ floodplain maps are outdated—some by as much as 20 years and with an average age of 9 years—and often are based on poor base maps that do not reflect urban development. Illinois has taken an aggressive step to remedy that with a new program at the Illinois State Water Survey (, part of a collaborative project that includes all levels of government.

Congress has allocated significant funding to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to modernize floodplain maps nationwide over a 5-year period. Recognizing that participation benefits the people of Illinois by providing State expertise for the best mapping products, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Office of Water Resources and the ISWS on the University of Illinois ( campus prepared a business plan for their participation in the project, which involves states throughout the nation.

Having the best Flood Insurance Rate Maps possible is important because FIRMS are used for regulatory and flood insurance purposes that promote responsible floodplain management, as well as to identify sensitive riparian corridors so that appropriate planning/mitigation efforts can minimize potential damage from natural disasters.

Currently, most floodplain maps in Illinois are available only in paper format. That will change with the availability of updated digital maps that use the latest geographic information system (GIS) technology. Local involvement by counties and communities is being stressed to ensure that data incorporated in the maps are up to date and accurate.

Ultimately, the maps will be available on a FEMA-hosted digital map portal. Until the transition to an all digital platform, FEMA will continue to print and distribute paper maps.

Heading up the ISWS Map Modernization Program is professional engineer Sally McConkey. Other program staff include GIS specialist Kingsley Allan, professional engineer Paminder Parmar, and four GIS specialists who joined the team last December. Melony Barrett, Phil Graff, Lisa Verhelst, and Tolga Yilmaz each have extensive cartography experience and degrees in geography, GIS, or urban and regional planning. According to McConkey, the GIS team is expected to double in size in upcoming years as more map projects are added.

Already the ISWS is preparing digital maps for Clinton, Sangamon, Kane, Rock Island, and Champaign Counties in Illinois. Over the next 5 years, McConkey and the rest of the team will prepare floodplain maps for most counties in Illinois.

More information about FEMA’s Map Modernization Plan is available on the Web (

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