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Iowa City City Council sees final Taft Speedway levee proposals

BY NATHANIEL OTJEN | OCTOBER 24, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa City City Council tackled how to proceed with the Taft Speedway levee on Tuesday evening. City officials recommended the council favor a plan for a 100-year flood-protection levee costing $8.1 million.

The proposed flood-mitigation project was one of eight proposals ranging from establishing a floodwall to establishing a levee and floodwall system. The proposals ranged in estimated costs from $3 million to $14.3 million.

HDR Inc. — an engineering firm — presented the plans to the City Council and was in charge of evaluating the city’s options on the Taft Speedway project.

“What staff would recommend is proceeding with project Alternative 7,” said Rick Fosse, the Iowa City Public Works director.

The proposed project would involve the construction of an earthen levee around the Idyllwild neighborhood and Parkview Church primarily along the Taft Speedway between Dubuque Street and No Name Road. The west side of the levee would tie into the high ground along No Name Road and to the east it would tie into high ground north of Taft Speedway.

Fosse said the levee project would not provide protection against something as large as the 2008 flood.

The city has been discussing flood mitigation projects since the flood. Iowa City community members have raised concerns over proposed mitigation options over the past few years. Concerns include the possibility of increased flooding across the river from a future levee.

The National Housing and Urban Development Disaster Recovery Office will be administering the funding through a Community Development Block Grant the city has to apply for. The councilors need to make a decision on which course of action they will take on the issue and then apply for the funds.

The question before the council is if it should apply for “urgent need” funds to cover the proposed project or risk losing the funds because the time passed since the flood could pose a question of how urgent the funding requirement is. If the council does apply under “urgent need” funds and lose them, then it can reapply for a grant issued for “low to moderate income” areas.

“The HUD office required us to take a step and look at this with more detail before we moved forward with a decision,” Fosse said about the report.

John Engel of HDR Engineering presented the options to the City Council and said he enjoyed working with the citizens of Iowa City on the project.

Three community members spoke about the Taft Speedway project — thanking the city councilors and urging them to think more in depth about the project.

At the beginning of the work session, Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek noted the importance of hearing the public opinion on the issue.

“It’s best for us not to discuss the recommendation before the public has time to weigh in — as we know they will,” he said.

A negative that has yet to be discussed is the environmental impact this project could have.

“In the report there’s a laundry list of impacts that we evaluated,” Engel said.

In Engel’s slide show forthe committee, it said there is a “potential for impacts on [threatened and endangered] species and wetlands, although it is anticipated that impacts could be minimized during design.”

City councilors will begin voting on the project on Nov. 27, with plans to move ahead quickly on the proposal.


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