IAFSM had its real beginnings in the mid 1970's, when several agencies sponsored an annual conference in the Chicago area to discuss the progress of various flood control programs. Leaders in this effort were the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago (later renamed the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago), the Illinois Department of Transportation, Division of Water Resources (which became the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Office of Water Resources), the U.S. Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
By the mid 1980's, their watershed plans were completed and their construction programs were well underway. Conference attendance started to drop and even though the conference had expanded to include “downstaters”.
In the spring of 1986, Larry Larson, Executive Director of ASFPM, was invited to speak to the conference on, among other things, creation of a state association of floodplain managers. In his talk, he asked the assembly, "Sure you have some great state programs, but do you want to rely on Springfield and Washington to tell you what you need?"
After the conference adjourned, fifty or so attendees met to discuss the idea of a state association. They appointed Lou Sidell, head of planning and zoning for Peoria County, to chair a meeting, which turned into several meetings, to iron out the details. Eventually the group adopted a Constitution and Bylaws and appointed an interim board for the Illinois Association for Floodplain and Stormwater Management. The name and the make-up of the founding committee and the first board show three key characteristics of the Illinois Association:
- There is a blending of federal, state, local and private members. It is an association of professionals, not people representing special constituencies.
- Stormwater management is equally as important as floodplain management. As noted by one member, "You don't solve a flood problem by working at the bottom of the hill."
- While the entire state is represented, the majority of the members are from the Chicago area.
Initially, the emphasis was on the Floodplain Management Committee and the Stormwater Management Committee. Each pursued their own concerns and even hosted separate workshops. However, as time went on this differentiation declined as members realized that they needed to know more about all aspects of the field. Soon there were eight technical committees including Wetlands, Certification, and Community Rating System.
These committees held workshops and twilight seminars, drafted position papers, and wrote articles to disseminate technical information. They did the legwork for the Association's many resolutions in support of or opposition to state and federal legislative and regulatory moves. While the Association has not always been successful, its members have been active speaking out at meetings, passing resolutions, publishing articles, providing technical assistance to other communities and residents, meeting with legislators, and even testifying before Congress.
Historically, IAFSM was focused in the metropolitan Northeastern Illinois area where 75% of the members lived and worked. This was largely due to the fact that smaller downstate communities lacked the staff and travel budgets to attend the annual conference. The solution was having two separate annual conferences, one in the Northeast and one downstate, more oriented to floodplain management and the National Flood Insurance Program. Due to the workload this placed on volunteer conference directors, this practice was replaced in 2000 with one annual conference held in Peoria. Since then, the conference site has alternated between a downstate and Chicago area location.
1987 - The Illinois Association for Floodplain and Stormwater Management, founded in 1986, becomes a chapter of ASFPM.
1988 - Initiation of quarterly newsletters; First financial contribution to ASFPM - $1,000 toward the new Floodplain Management Resource Center; First honorary member: Lou Sidell, the Association’s first chair.
1989 - First twilight seminar - dinner sessions on a specific technical issue.
1990 - Three IAFSM members testify before three Congressional committees on different floodplain and stormwater management topics.
1991 - Board contracts for executive secretary to provide office services, a permanent address, continuity, and a phone number to call; Mary Lu Whetmore hired.
1992 - First Association representation on a state-wide committee, the Governor's Water Resources and Land Use Priorities Task Force.
1995 - Second honorary member: Illinois' native son, Frank Thomas.
1996 - High school essay contest started to encourage teachers and students to learn more about the dangers and damage of flooding.
1997 - IAFSM provides $12,000 to fully fund three floodproofing open houses following severe flooding in Northeastern Illinois.
1999 - First national challenge as IAFSM donates $5,000 to the ASFPM Foundation and another $5,000 to match other chapters' contributions.
2000 - With funding support from the State and FEMA, IAFSM publishes an all-inclusive Floodplain Management Home Study Course; Illinois Floodplain Manager Certification Program begins. First Illinois CFM’s are tested at the Annual Conference. 20 passed the test.
2001 - Establishment of real website, www.IllinoisFloods.org; Second ASFPM Foundation challenge grant of$5,000.
2002 - CFM count in IAFSM reaches100.
2003 - IAFSM in coordination with the Missouri Floodplain Managers Association hosted the ASFPM Conference in St. Louis, MO.
2007 - Sarah Harbaugh replaces Mary Lu Whetmore as executive secretary. IAFSM becomes a 501c3organization.
2008 - IAFSM added the Inter-Organizational and Youth Outreach Committees to the board. There are now 14 committees and committee chairs. The Association goes to 4 CFM exams per year.
2009 - IAFSM purchases two watershed models to be loaned out to schools or youth organizations to demonstrate flooding problems; made youth outreach grants to 3 institutes of higher learning.
2010 - Illinois specific Certified Floodplain Manager test ended and the use of the National Exam began; IAFSM’s CRS user group held its first meeting.
2011 - IAFSM celebrates 25 years of serving Illinois.
2014 - IAFSM formed an Unsteady Modeling subcommittee.
2015 - IAFSM hosted an AFSPM Foundation Symposium. The Rapid Assistance Flood Team (RAFT) was formed (volunteer CFM’s) and conducted its first flood damage assessment in Watseka.
2016 - IAFSM in coordination with the Michigan Stormwater-Floodplain Association hosts the ASFPM Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. IAFSM celebrates 30 years of serving Illinois.