HESCO barriers scheduled for removal

BY EMMA WILLIS | JULY 01, 2013 5:00 AM

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With floodwaters once again approaching the University of Iowa campus, officials, students, and bystanders worked to ensure the most recent flooding wouldn’t echo the situation five years ago.

Using the tools they learned from 2008, UI officials dove hands first in an immediate response to protect the university from being affected.

University of Iowa President Sally Mason told The Daily Iowan she believes the flood was a “healthy scare” for the university, because it was a wake-up call demonstrating the river’s potential within years of the last major flood. Mason also noted how far the university has come in its planning.

“After that flood, we learned so much, and we executed that plan perfectly,” Mason said. “All of the preparation that we did to keep any damage from happening to the campus this time really paid off.”

One flood-mitigation and prevention measure Mason was excited to see make a difference was in the Beckwith Boathouse, the home of the Iowa rowing team, which opened in the fall of 2009.

“I sometimes laugh that I was actually excited when we opened the boathouse up to see whether or not it would flood, because it was built to flood,” she said. “It was built to take on floodwaters if necessary. And we came within half an inch [this year].”

Many flood-mitigation efforts put in place at the end of May will come down this week, and UI spokesman Tom Moore said the length of time to remove the barriers will take as long as it did to assemble them. The cost to both set up and remove the HESCO barriers around campus is an estimated $5.2 million.

David Swenson, a UI adjunct lecturer in urban and regional planning and an associate scientist in the Iowa State Economics Department, said using the money for the barriers makes more sense than taking a risk.

“The university is still playing catch up from 2008,” he said. “There are certain steps to make sure they don’t have losses.”

Once the barriers are removed, they will be stored in Mayflower, Moore said.

Mason said she was very pleased at how quickly everyone jumped on barricading buildings close to the floodplain, noting that total mitigation efforts took fewer than three days to complete.

“What we learned is if we really pushed, we could do it in a day,” she said.

UI junior marketing student Mikhayla Schmaltz said that to date, the recovery efforts have not forced her to adjust her day-to-day life, and she liked campus-protection efforts occurred during the summer months, when fewer students and faculty are on hand to adjust to the measures.

“It makes sense to save millions of dollars,” she said.

Despite the flooding, Mason said campus construction continues without interruption, so that the university “stay[s] on target, on budget, on time.”

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