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UI officials stock up on $750,000 in flood materials

BY GRACE SAVIDES | MARCH 23, 2010 7:30 AM

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Flood season is coming, and, this time, the University of Iowa is preparing.

UI Facilities Management is in the process of acquiring water pumps, sandbags, generators, and three miles worth of portable barriers to store on campus.

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency is funding much of the recovery from the floods of 2008, the UI is spending around $750,000 of its money on the supplies, which are being stored in the event of another flood.

“These are worst-case scenarios,” said Dan Heater, the director of buildings and landscape services for Facilities Management.

The flood of 2008 primed officials to be prepared for another deluge. Prior to that flood, the university’s plan was based on water levels from record flooding in 1993. The plan has since been updated to account for flooding on a much larger scale.

“This is really the first time since the flood of ’08 that we’ve had this big of a chance of flooding,” said Doug True, the UI senior vice president for Finance.

Being able to easily access materials in the event of a flood is a priority, Heater said.

During the 2008 flood, sand was in high demand so it took three hours to get sand from the quarries that supply it to campus. By stockpiling the sand, workers will be able to dip into the reserve and later replenish it from the quarries.

“We need to have people trained and equipment available so we can do extraordinary things in a limited amount of time,” True said.

Officials also said they’re competing with other communities to obtain flood supplies.

A rash of flooding along the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota, combined with concerns for the risk of flooding in other places this year, has led to increased demand for such materials across the Midwest. UI officials have worked to get the supplies earlier and faster to ensure they have all the necessary supplies.

And preparation for the flood doesn’t stop at stocking supplies.

University officials plan to test the flood-emergency plan and train staff to deal with problems that could arise.

“Responding to a flood is a singular event in a yearly cycle,” said Larry Weber, the director of the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research. “We’re trying to rely on resources that we have.”

The UI is also creating long-term plans to deal with damage caused by flooding.

One such plan includes the proposed elevation of sidewalks along the Iowa River, which would serve as a barrier for minor flooding and provide a constant elevation on which to build during larger floods, Weber said.

University officials also plan on doing flood mitigation for buildings that could be affected by a flood. These efforts would lessen damage by preventing water from getting in.

True will submit a $14.8 million proposal to the state Board of Regents at its meeting Wednesday to make such modifications as well as repair Art Building West.

“We’re much more conscientious now of the potential serious flooding than we were prior to 2008,” he said.


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