Iowa gets U.S. flood money


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Iowa will receive $84.1 million for flood-mitigation efforts, just two years after major flooding ravaged Iowa City.

Officials announced the grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Monday morning. Twelve other states were awarded grants as well for similar efforts, but Iowa’s grant was the largest. The total amount of grants given nationally amounted to $312 million.

Officials have decided $10 million of the grant will be used for projects related to watersheds, said Emily Shields, the chief of staff at the Rebuild Iowa Office.

“We’ll basically be studying the different things that minimize erosion, deposits, runoffs — things that affect both water quality and quantity,” she said.

Out of the $10 million, $800,000 will be used for watershed-management authorities, a project that Larry Weber, a UI professor of hydroscience and engineering and the director of IIHR, said he is looking forward to working on.

Managing watersheds is particularly important to preventing flooding, Weber said, because the shape and type of watershed determines where water goes after it falls.

Creating management authorities will allow every watershed to improve significantly, Weber said.

A few watershed-management authorities currently exist in Iowa, he said, but they are only funded by local funds, leaving them often underfunded. He said he hopes the ones they create will end up becoming self-supporting.

“These authorities will require the communities within that watershed to come together to improve our water clarity, quality, and quantity,” he said. “This is kind of a kick-start program.”

The Iowa Flood Center will lead, coordinate, and predict the effect of the project, with help from the Iowa Department of Natural Resource and other state agencies, Weber said.

Iowa City City Councilor Connie Champion said she thinks it is a great bonus that both Iowa City and Coralville received some of the money, noting that it will be used for levees.

“It’s good, it’s positive,” she said. “You never have enough money, but it should do a lot.”

In addition to an emphasis on watersheds, $400,000 of the grant will be used to encourage flood education across the state, Shields said.

The Iowa State University Agricultural Extension Service, the Iowa Floodplain and Stormwater Management Association, and the Iowa Water Resources Coordinating Council will work together to get out information about flood risks and general research.

Shields said these are all long-term projects that she thinks are very significant to helping the state of Iowa.

“We have research that shows Iowa has now and will have in the future more precipitation,” she said.

“There’s a lot of creative ways to handle these issues and I think this is an important opportunity to use the expertise we have in our state.”

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