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One year later, flood recovery is something to be proud of

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | JUNE 08, 2009 7:26 AM

The one year anniversary of last summer’s flood is upon us. These 12 months have tested the resolve and the will of our campus and community like nothing we could have expected. Twenty of our buildings were damaged, some more than others. Damages estimates early on in the evaluating phase started at $75 million, but now, the aftereffects of last year’s historic disaster have increased that amount almost tenfold.

We’ve come a long way over these 12 months. The destruction of last summer has largely been swept up, and reconstruction efforts are underway. We commend the campus, city, and state communities for their incredible efforts in recovering from the devastating waters that ravaged our homes and workplaces.

The UI was a variable war zone last summer; mounds of sandbags littered our campus and the rest of the Iowa City area.

The UI Power Plant was rendered temporarily useless during last year’s flood. In lieu, alternate generators were used to meet the university’s energy needs. The total cost of the destruction to the Power Plant was more than $40 million.

The hardest hit corner of campus in terms of cost was the Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories; damage there totaled $42 million, a large portion of which went to the restoration of high-tech research equipment.

On the other side of the river, the UI Hospitals and Clinics were stretched thin by restrictions that resulted from inaccessible roads and bridges on all sides.

Those are just a few details from the flood. Similar stories can be found from nearly every building at the UI. Despite such challenges, classes began as scheduled last fall.

The swift and immediate action taken to allow the students a quick return in the fall of last year was an enormous feat of endurance and strength. Mayflower Hall, the largest dormitory on campus, was uninhabitable only weeks before students were slated to move in. The IMU was a vacant building only a few months ago, but now the upper level of the building is as like it always has with the footsteps of students. The Adler Journalism Building and English-Philosophy Building had basements full of water less than a year ago, and they are now home to routine classwork.

Across campus, the work by the hundreds of volunteers and hard-working employees has made classrooms home again for eager students, willing to forgive the minor kinks for the comforts of stability.

This anniversary is a cause for celebration, but we must still remember that there is work left to do. The city of Iowa City has made strides toward the best possible flood plan for the future. While its efforts are ongoing, the City Council has stated in the past that it will take a few years to iron out the details. A quick but thorough disaster plan is our greatest concern as a university and city.

A majority of the buildings have been at full speed for the better part of the last year, but the temporary facilities make for a nomadic existence that is neither suitable for learning nor for student morale. We have all had to make sacrifices. However, some have been forced to make due with precious little. The studio-arts department has managed to stay afloat while scattering, often far from campus. The university has done its best to provide accommodations to the students and faculty, but the distance from the campus adds a feeling of disconnection that will become increasingly prevalent over time.

Officials have only recently green-lighted Hancher Auditorium and the surrounding arts facilities for the planning stages. Relocating the facilities to new locations will cost $276 million, much of which will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

This one-year anniversary is significant in the history of our university. However, let us hope that in the coming years the lingering reminders of the flood will be not of devastation but of renewal. The work we have done is amazing, but continuing that level of commitment must be our highest priority.


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