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Environmental Center research findings predict extreme floods in Northeast Florida

st johns river UNF researches Dr. Chris Brown, civil engineering professor, and Samantha Kovalenko, civil engineering graduate student, have recently completed a study on predicting extreme floods in Northeast Florida. This research was funded by the UNF Environmental Center’s 2020 Seed Grant program.

The UNF researchers developed a new method for flood estimation by adapting the St. Johns River Water Management District’s models to simulate extreme flood flows.

The focus areas of the study included the sub basins within the Lower St. Johns River Basin including Black Creek, Julington Creek, Durbin Creek, Big Davis Creek, Ortega River, and Pablo Creek. The research team conducted a Water Supply Impact Study to identify the safe water withdrawal conditions of the St. Johns River. The team adapted the existing model runs to fit the needs of the research by modifying them to simulate varying amounts of rainfall to induce a flood event.

The team compared the estimates obtained from the HSPF model runs and statistical distributions to existing flood estimates developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Flood Insurance Studies. Prior to this research, the models had never been adapted for flood estimation.

The research suggests a new approach for reporting flood estimates by revealing that estimates can vary significantly depending on the method selected. Therefore, a major conclusion of the research is that flood estimates are not always “one size fits all”.

The team is currently developing a manuscript for a journal article that will be submitted for consideration for publishing in Environmental Earth Sciences. This journal is widely read and would present the results to a national audience. The team will also share the results of their research with the St. Johns River Water Management District as it was their original HSPF model was modified to fit the needs of the research topic.

The Environmental Center at the University of North Florida offers Seed Grants to stimulate the creation of multidisciplinary research projects related to the environment. The grants offered to faculty are intended to "seed" environmentally related research that subsequently results in the preparation and submission of a proposal to an external funding agency that is submitted through the Environmental Center. In addition, the Environmental Center especially hopes to inspire effective collaboration between faculty members and students in diverse disciplines. The Seed Grants are competitively awarded to the most meritorious proposals.

The Seed Grant program is supported by an endowment provided by the River Branch Foundation. A recent gift from the Vulcan Materials Company Foundation has allowed the Environmental Center to expand the Seed Grant program and offer two additional grants focused on water issues in Northeast Florida.

Read the entire research paper on “An Examination of Extreme Flood Events and Resiliency of the Lower St. Johns River, Florida, USA Using Multiple Methods.”