UI, city officials continue flood mitigation efforts

BY KRISTEN EAST | JUNE 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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While The Daily Iowan was on publishing break, continued rainfall and severe thunderstorms prompted a series of flash-flood warnings, and shortly thereafter, Johnson County and University of Iowa officials started preparing for anticipated flooding.

Flash flood watches begin

The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood watch for Iowa City on May 27. Johnson County officials met the next day at the Joint Emergency Communications Center to discuss their plan of action in case of flooding.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has the final say on how much water outflow is released from the Coralville Dam, continued to increase the water outflows at the dam each day.

Flood-damaged university buildings closed

UI officials closed Art Building West on May 30 after the construction of a HESCO flood barrier was assembled. The Theater Building and the former Museum of Art, now an interim site of the School of Music, were closed the next day.

The UI’s flood-mitigation efforts also included sandbagging of the Water Plant intake near the UI Main Library, elevating equipment at the Beckwith Boathouse, relocating materials from the lower level of the Main Library to higher floors, and closing various parking lots, among other things.

Additionally, summer occupants of the Mayflower Residence Hall were evacuated and relocated to another dormitory.

City roads affected by flooding

Earlier this month, Iowa City officials closed the portion of Dubuque Street extending from Park Road to Foster Road.

Iowa City Public Works Director Rick Fosse told the Iowa City City Council on June 4 that Dubuque Street is expected to remain closed through the middle of June.

Presidential Disaster Declaration approved for Iowa counties

President Obama approved on May 31 Gov. Terry Branstad’s request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration.

The counties in the disaster declaration included Appanoose, Cedar, Clinton, Davis, Decatur, Des Moines, Iowa, Johnson, Keokuk, Lee, Lucas, Marion, Monroe, Muscatine, Ringgold, Van Buren, Wapello, Warren, and Wayne.

The Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance provides funding for the affected counties under the Public Assistance Program.

This declaration is the 16th Major Presidential Disaster Declaration that Iowa has received since March 2007.

State, local officials tour flood-mitigation efforts

Branstad, Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, and several state legislators joined UI President Sally Mason on a tour of the university’s flood preparations on June 3.

Officials said they remained confident that a repeat of the 2008 flood would not occur.

Mason told those who accompanied her that the UI’s revised flood plan provided much more favorable conditions this time around.

“We know how to protect ourselves now; that’s the good news,” she said at the time. “This time around, there’s no chaos, no panic.”

Mason said that roughly 100 employees from Facilities Management and other UI departments have aided in constructing HESCO barrier systems around campus.

The UI’s mitigation measures included installing 8- and 12-foot tall HESCO barrier systems at Mayflower and the IMU and a 9-foot tall “invisible” flood wall surrounding Art Building West. All three of those facilities took on floodwaters in 2008. Art Building West is the only flood-damaged building to have been completely restored in the past five years.

The latest on flooding

Much of Johnson County remained dry through the last week, but officials remain concerned about rain predicted for this coming week. The Coralville Reservoir crested on June 5, and water levels continue to drop.

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