Q&A With the Stormwater Coordinator of Madison County

Gabrielle Reed is the new Stormwater Coordinator for Madison County. We have the privilege of collaborating with Gabrielle on several initiatives targeting water pollution issues in the region. We sat down with Gabrielle this winter to learn more about her.

HLC: What was your path to becoming a stormwater coordinator?
GR: The path to this career was a winding one. Beginning community college in the fall of 2017, I was determined to be a Psychology major. After transferring to SIUC, I decided to switch gears and study Wildlife Habitat Management for a semester. I had taken a pre-requisite zoology course and decided I wanted to change majors again. I was then a Zoology major before Geography and Environmental Resources. While I was getting comfortable in this major, I had to decide on my specialization, which is Climate and Water Resources. Since I had so many classes on my transcript from bouncing around, my wonderful advisor at the time made connections with those classes, allowing me to obtain two minors in Geology and Environmental Studies. The path wasn’t clear to me at the time, but looking back at it now, it was everything I needed to start the career path I’m in now. I graduated from SIUC in May 2021 with my Bachelor of Science.

HLC: What is a day in the life like for a stormwater coordinator?
GR: A day in the life of a Stormwater Coordinator—it’s interesting. As the County’s stormwater coordinator, I have the privilege of meeting and coordinating with many municipalities and their public works departments, for example. We coordinate with these departments on our Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) Permit to reduce non-point source pollution into the region’s waterways. I also have the opportunity to learn directly from Madison County citizens about the drainage and flooding issues they experience. I can then engage with organizations and businesses in efforts to improve water quality and maintain the integrity of the lands and structures near hazard areas. I’m responsible for reviewing permits to make sure that the development happening is reasonably safe from flooding. I also help to organize events and meetings to attend to issues within the county. I stand as the representative for the county when it comes to any local, state, or federal correspondence pertaining to stormwater or floodplain issues.

HLC: What are some upcoming projects in Madison County?
GR: Currently, I am working alongside the County’s Resource Management Coordinator, Brandon Banks, Alton’s Sierra Club and Three Rivers Project Co-coordinator Christine Favilla, on a clean streams/trash initiative. The hope of this project is to get the residents of Madison County aware of trash pollution and how it impacts our nation’s waterways. We hope to do minor stream clearing of organic debris such as log and leaf jams, as well as cleaning any and all trash from the creek with the organized help from volunteers. The project is in its earliest preliminary phase; and we hope to have a trial-and-error event for 2023.

HLC: What previous projects are you proud of?
GR: One of the previous projects I am proud of is the finalization of a Floodplain Ordinance with Madison County. In July of 2022, Madison County worked with Illinois NFIP Coordinator Marylin Sucoe to develop and implement the Floodplain Ordinance to further protect residents living within the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) of the county. Residents who are under federal mortgages such as the Veterans Program or USDA Program are required to have flood insurance if they’re within the SFHA. With the implementation of this ordinance, those residents are now able to get better rates on their flood insurance. The ordinance also helps to serve as a means of protection for water quality and land equity by restricting certain activities that may cause water quality or land equity to decrease.

HLC: Do you have any tips on how people can improve the water quality in our streams?
GR: To a resident wanting to improve stormwater quality…stop fertilizing your yard, and please pick up the doggy doo-doo. Non-point source (i.e., pollution that can’t be traced to a single source) pollution is the number one factor in poor water quality. Urbanized areas or residential areas are more prone to pollution by maintaining their lawns a little too much. This extra fertilizer runs off into our streams and rivers and can cause hazardous algae blooms. Picking up pet waste and disposing of it properly is an easy, but important, step to reduce the amount of pollution in our waterways. Residents can implement more infiltration-friendly landscaping, such as permeable pavement or rain gardens. The more stormwater that can be soaked up by the yard, the better. Keep an eye out for native plants that have deep root systems that can soak up a lot of water, and help to percolate it into the groundwater system. Other tactics residents can take are rain barrels. Conserve water used within the home by having a rain barrel on the property to use for things like watering indoor or outdoor plants, plus it saves you the trip to refill the watering can!