RESPEC Wins ACEC National Award for Innovative Eastern South Dakota Flood Information System

When RESPEC provided the state of South Dakota with the Big Sioux River Flood Information System (BSRFIS), we did not expect to win an award. We did what we always do: focused on the client’s needs, community improvement, and the residents’ safety. The BSRFIS advanced through local and state award stages to receive a national Engineering Excellence Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC).

In 2014, a flood revealed shortcomings in available data and modeling that prevented state and local authorities from responding appropriately. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (SD DENR) realized the need for a predictive model and comprehensive flood-mapping system.

RESPEC led the team that created the BSRFIS. We designed the BSRFIS so that observed and forecasted meteorological data fed into a basin-wide hydrologic model. When flood events are predicted, the output supplements National Weather Service, River Forecast Center data. The BSRFIS provides real-time flood information that is accessible by decision-makers, emergency management, weather services, and the public.

Thanks to the collaboration between RESPEC and the SD DENR, the BSRFIS is a one-stop web platform with interactive stream conditions, flood forecasts, visualizations, inundation maps, and flood-related data and information available at The 8,600 inundation maps represent realistic flood scenarios for five communities, including point-by-point maximum flood depths and water-surface elevations. Together, these flood scenarios allow South Dakota to respond in real time or plan ahead for flood events. Since operations began in 2018, the BSRFIS has kept citizen safety at the forefront.

South Dakota State Geologist and SD DENR Project Manager Tim Cowman said, “This project has produced an essential tool for responding to flood events in the Big Sioux River Basin.” South Dakota can now respond to flood events and help residents to understand what is happening in their own backyards.

RESPEC is honored to have provided these life-saving solutions. With a record 203 project entries, only 20 projects received the ACEC Honor Award. Judges evaluated global projects on innovation, public perception, sustainability, complexity, and client satisfaction. During the award presentation, a critical factor of the BSRFIS was noted: “Detailed computer models can simulate weather conditions and watershed conditions across the entire basin from 2- to 500-year events.”

RESPEC thanks the SD DENR for its leadership in developing the BSRFIS, which has improved the lives of South Dakota residents and protected their properties and businesses. We will continue to offer our clients solutions that surpass their needs, incorporate innovation, and prioritize safety and longevity.


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