Rain or shine, the Porter County Storm Water Program is working hard around the clock to make sure the county’s stormwater infrastructure is flowing smoothly all year-round.
While the department wasn’t established until 2016, a countywide comprehensive drainage study was published in 2010 which showed residents’ stormwater-related experiences and got the process moving. The study offered a resident survey and open houses to inform the County about potential stormwater issues. Over 2,100 issues were identified by the study.
As a result, avenues for community feedback and involvement were opened. With county commissioners, county council, and the drainage board members voicing their thoughts as well, it wasn’t long before everyone saw just how much good establishing a storm water department could do for the area.
“They saw that there was this giant hole that needed to be filled. The effort was undertaken to create this program, create a funding mechanism, and create what we have today, which allows us to be able to respond to, interact with, and educate the public on all the stormwater issues,” said Director of Engineering with the Porter County Department of Development and Stormwater Management Michael Novotney.
This success can be credited to the six individuals working hard behind the scenes to make everything happen. Along with Novotney, the Storm Water Program consists of Chelsey Gordon, storm water program manager; Amanda Vandenoever, MS4 program coordinator; Lori Larson, project manager; Meredith Phillis, administrative assistant; and Rich Hudson, plan reviewer/inspector.
“Our department is a one-stop-shop for public or private development projects, infrastructure-related problems, and infrastructure projects,” Novotney said. “There is a lot to do but our staff does a great job and is is dedicated full time to working on the stormwater program.”
Along with these responsibilities, the department aims to both educate and provide resources to the county on stormwater essentials.
“The department oversees our stormwater program, coordinates activities, and administers
programs designed to implement projects across unincorporated Porter County. This is to provide drainage, improve water quality, reduce flood damages, and maintain and enhance the county's various stormwater infrastructure,” Novotney said.
Looking ahead, the team has a variety of huge projects up its sleeve that it’s excited to get underway thanks to funding from the county’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation.
“We were fortunate to get a significant amount of money from the county's ARPA funding to take care of some high-priority, urgent, large-scale projects across the county, so the engineering is all well underway on all of these efforts,” said Novotney.
Through all these projects, Novotney and his team hope others can see just how much the quality of an area’s storm water can really contribute to the area’s well-being and is looking forward to continuing to make that positive change throughout the county.
“Stormwater management, which is managing the quality of our stormwater, and the quantity of our stormwater, is a reflection of the way that society lives on the landscape,” he said. “It is a very important, fairly new discipline within the overall umbrella of civil engineering. It's very much related to culture, society and people’s actions, and we can't do our work without educating and working together with the public on solving these issues. It's a big cooperative effort and has to be watershed wide, neighbor to neighbor, and person to person.”