Taming the Wildcat Drain

St. Joseph County Drain Commissioner (SJCDC)
St. Joseph, MI

Project Overview

The Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) US-131 project was underway when they realized that the stormwater outlet was privately owned. They approached the St. Joseph County Drain Commissioner (SJCDC) and came up with a plan to convert the ditch into a county drain. SJCDC hired Fleis & VandenBrink (F&V) to map and evaluate the current ditch and determine accurate drainage district boundaries within an expedited timeline.

F&V’s solution was to creatively utilize a variety of technologies, tools, and data sets. Existing LiDAR data was chosen saving time over collecting new data and was supplemented with ground survey data in areas with no LiDAR coverage, such as underwater. The product is more accurate – 2-foot contours versus 10-foot with USGS data. Using ESRI software to create a 3D surface and then analyze it to create the drainage area boundary saved further time and money.

Merging the ESRI generated boundary into AutoDESK Civil3D to attach it to the Public Land Survey System leveraged Civil3D’s ability to manipulate survey data and generate descriptions. It also allowed for quickly integrating GIS parcel data. Re-importing the map back into ESRI allowed for the accurate identification of affected property owners.

By creatively using both ESRI and AutoDESK Civil3D software F&V created superior products in less time. The design engineer said it was the best map he’s seen for drain design.

The result of these combined solutions yielded very accurate survey work products, savings of over $50,000 and as much as 6 months of project time.

In 2020, this project won the Surveying Honorable Conceptor Award by the American Council of Engineering Companies as part of their Engineering and Surveying Excellence competition.

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