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Addressing Spring Flood Risk

With spring approaching and the predictions of increased flood risk coming from the National Weather Service, we wanted to share a message from our Public Works Director Jen Winter: 

Obviously, we are very aware of the potential for flood risk here in Cedar Rapids. One point I wanted to emphasize is that we’ve been preparing for – and addressing – major flood threats for the last several years.

We consider a major flood stage threat to be anything over a 16’ river crest. With protective measures in place, the impacts of a 16’ crest – even while considered major flood stage – are relatively minor for the general public.

Last fall, we had several major flood stage threats that we handled successfully through our interim response plan, which outlines key flood protection measures at various flood stages.

HescosThese tactics include both above-ground measures (earth levees and sand-filled HESCO barriers) and below ground measures (closure of storm sewer gates to prevent backup from the river), and can be implemented within 3 – 4 days.

The response level and areas impacted by these measures vary greatly depending on the river crest; last fall, we were able to protect against a 17.94’ crest, with relatively minor impacts to the general public.

We have inventoried and inspected our supplies and equipment, and have ongoing training for our staff in flood response measures. One of the benefits that comes with warding off flood threats every year is that it continues to give us the opportunity to improve our response time, efficiency, level of service, and coordination.

We’ve also formed very strong relationships with the National Weather Service, and have daily calls with their staff during high river levels to develop the most appropriate response plan.

Obviously, we take these spring flood predictions very seriously, and there are still several factors that remain unknown, primarily the rate of snow melt and how much additional precipitation we receive this spring.

Lastly, I’d like to mention the significant benefit of having some segments of our permanent Flood Control System in place.

Permanent protection measures in place in the NewBo/Sinclair District include an earth levee, two pump stations, a detention basin, and additional underground measures that protect against river water backing up into the storm sewer system.

These permanent measures have greatly contributed to the protection of the NewBo and Downtown District, and have reduced the role of temporary protection and ongoing monitoring that was previously required in these areas. Work on the west-side levee is underway right now in the Czech Village, in addition to a permanent wall segment north of downtown around Quaker Oaks.

Having a fully completed, permanent Flood Control System will be very important in order to continue addressing the ongoing flood risks we experience in Cedar Rapids.

Our staff remains committed and diligent in protecting the citizens of Cedar Rapids from flood threats. 

Jen Winter, P.E.
Public Works Director

  Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 101 First Street SE

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