Iowa City officials: $4M flood levee plans underway


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Iowa City officials say plans to build a $4 million flood levee are underway.

The proposed project — estimated to be completed in 2013 — would build a levee spanning from Highway 6 south to the CRANDIC railroad bridge on the east side of the Iowa River. The city commissioned the East Side Levee Project in response to the extensive damage sustained during the floods of 1993 and 2008.

City special-projects engineer Jason Reichart said that the project will most likely be completed within the boundaries of the budget.

"We're not planning on going over the budget," he said. "We feel confident with our numbers."

Paul Anderson of MMS Consultants said the project is in its preliminary design phase, which is meant to include field surveys, mapping, and environmental studies prior to beginning construction.

"We're working on the study, and the city says it's OK. Believe us," Anderson said after a local resident asked whether the proposed levee would raise water levels at other points on the river.

Anderson predicted the top of the levee would be 14 feet across and almost 648 feet above sea level. Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations require levees to be built at least three feet higher than a 100-year flood elevation of 644.5 feet.

Engineers are also dealing with how to drain water from flooding and rain, proposals for combinations of pump stations and storm sewers, and a specific gate to drain water that closes as the river level rises.

Anderson said Iowa City officials and MMS Consultant members have slated the project to finish its preliminary stages and develop a cost estimate by December, after which they will address business owners again for their input. Final design should be finished between December 2012 and March 2013, with potential for the project being finished later in 2013.

Iowa City Village Inn general manager Gary Mariman, whose restaurant suffered severe water damage and required complete renovation after the 2008 flood, said he supports the levee but does not expect another flood in the near future.

"They said the level of flood in 2008 is only supposed to happen every 500 years," he said. "The law of averages says that we won't see another like it in our lifetimes, but maybe we'd better brace for the 1,000 year flood."

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