Taft Speedway Resident: 'I Fully Understand The Risk'

By Gregg Hennigan, Reporter

A portion of the Taft Speedway neighborhood along the Iowa River on Monday, May 6, 2013. (Liz Martin/KCRG-TV9)

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By Richard Pratt

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- On Taft Speedway along the Iowa River, Mark Phelps was moving stuff out of his garage, which sits at the 100-year-flood level, on Thursday morning, but he was not worried about the part of the house his family lives in with his wife and two kids.

They raised the home to 1 foot above the 500-year-flood mark after 6 feet of water destroyed the house in 2008.

The Phelps are among nine homeowners who turned down buyout offers from the city after 2008 in favor of continuing to live in a neighborhood they love along the river.

“I fully understand the risk and I would not change my mind,” Phelps said.

But he criticized the city of Iowa City and the Army Corps of Engineers for what he described as poor communication. He also said he thought the Corps should have been releasing more water last week in anticipation of flooding.

The corps is frequently criticized by residents downstream from the dam at Coralville Lake, but Dee Goldman, the lake’s operations manager, said there are a number of factors they must take into account, including how the lake’s outflow will affect property south of Iowa City.

Rick Fosse, Iowa City’s public works director, said Thursday the city will distribute fliers in flood-prone neighborhoods on how evacuations would work and other resources for them. The best resource for people in need, Fosse said, is the United Way of Johnson County emergency volunteer center and disaster call center at the Johnson County Fairgrounds. The phone number is (319) 337-8657.

Fosse said evacuations are a possibility. He also said any sandbagging efforts in the Parkview Terrace and Taft Speedway neighborhoods would have to be done by individual property owners. The city offered buyouts to those residents following the 2008 flood.

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