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Officials meet to discuss flood prevention

BY AARON WALKER | SEPTEMBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa City residents and politicians teamed up with the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss flooding issues in the Coralville Reservoir and the Iowa River.

Local residents were able to obtain information of ongoing projects to prevent flooding on the Iowa River at the forum Monday.

Jim Stiman, a supervisory hydraulic engineer for the Corps, discussed the day-to-day management of local water resource.

“Changes in climatology and even climate change,” he said. “Those are drivers for taking a look at the water-control plan and making modification.”

Stiman manages many locations in the Mississippi River drainage basin, including the Coralville Dam and Burlington’s Lock and Dam 18.

Stiman also focused on the many tradeoffs the Corps must take in order to maximize safety and public health.

He said the drainage area of the Iowa River basin is 3,100 square miles.

“If we’re going to adjust the water-control plan to prevent larger floods, we’re going to sacrifice some of the economics of protecting agriculture for minor events,” he said.

Iowa City residents discussed the issue at an even more local level.

“We cannot stop a catastrophic event from happening in Johnson County,” Johnson County Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said.  “But we can plan, we can train, and we can prepare for such an event to save lives, minimize property damage and harm to the environment, and do our best to return to a sense of normalcy.”

Iowa City Public Works Director Rick Fosse said he takes significant responsibility for management and occurrences.

“As a community living on the river downstream, we need to be thinking about strategies for living with floods,” Fosse said. “Our strategy is built around three principles: those being remove, protect, and prevent.”

His programs were outlined in three sections: removal of buildings and operations in the floodplain, operations budgeted at roughly $90.6 million. He also focused on protecting the infrastructure present, which would cost $66.7 million, and prevent future flooding. This, he said, would be possible by avoiding the creation of additional floodplain liabilities, the cheapest at $2 million.

Iowa City landowners noted such projects as the Taft Speedway flood mitigation and decisions to conserve backup storage in the Coralville Reservoir.

“It was not an intentional decision to preserve the last 20 percent of storage and not use it,” Stiman said. “The objective is to release the least as possible to avoid filling up the lake.”


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