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Cedar Rapids Ready to Take Bids on Flood Protection

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa City officials are moving ahead with the start of construction of a flood protection system for both sides of the Cedar River, and bids on the first phase of the multi-phase, many-year project are expected this fall.

The first phase will bolster and elevate by about eight feet the existing flood protection wall at the Quaker Co. plant to protect it to the level of the city's historic 2008 flood, Rob Davis, the city's engineering operations manager, told the City Council's Flood Protection Committee on Thursday.

For some time, the city has planned to start the flood protection construction work at the Quaker plant because the city will use, in part, a $9-million federal disaster grant already in hand and earmarked for this specific part of the overall project.

At the same time, Dave Elgin, the city's public works director, told the council committee that it is important to protect the Quaker plant so it does not endure a second flood that might force it to move the operation out of the city.

Davis said city officials, consulting firm Stanley Consultants of Muscatine, Iowa, and Quaker representatives have been meeting frequently to fine tune the flood protection at the plant.

Davis said elevating and bolstering Quaker's current flood wall will be done in sections and will require cutting into the existing structure. As a result, the city now expects to construct the Quaker phase of the flood protection system over two years, 2015 and 2016, so that work is not done from April through June when the Cedar River is most prone to flood.

Davis said the final appearance of the flood wall outside the plant is still under review, but one possibility calls for the concrete flood wall to be light brown in color with simple pattern.

Quaker favors something "simplistic," Pat Ball, with Stanley Consultants, told the council committee.

The flood wall at Quaker will stand 12 to 14 feet high when about 8 feet is added to its height, which Ball said will block the view of the plant's first floor or two.

Davis said Quaker has an aesthetic interest in having vertical supports on the flood wall line up with the vertical lines in the plant building.

"This is a showcase for them," Ball said.

He said the appearance is the easy part of the project. More complicated is the engineering, which includes moving a 36-inch water line outside the flood wall, he said.

In total, the city now estimates that its flood protection system will cost $570 million.

Of that amount, the city already has done $117.7 million in flood mitigation work, most of which was paid for with federal and state disaster dollars.

Another $263.8 million will come from a state Flood Mitigation Board grant over 20 years while $78.8 million is expected from Congress' Water Resources Reform and Development Act. The city will pay $110 million over 20 years in required matching funds.

Davis told the council committee that the Public Works Department is in the process of selecting a consultant or consultants to help with additional design and engineering work on the flood protection system.

The Army Corps of Engineers is designing most of the system's east-side protection and is about 35 percent done with that work, Elgin said.

Davis said there is flexibility in the construction of the phases of the system, and construction schedules are apt to change with the flow of money into the project and new economic development proposals that come along.

He said that the second phase of work had been intended for Kingston Village a on the west side of the river in conjunction with the construction of the Cedar Crossing Casino. Last week, though, the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission denied the casino a state gaming license, which Davis made note of.

Elgin said the plan now is to take flood protection east from the Quaker plant to protect the Cargill plant next to it. The city's preferred flood protection plan, approved by the City Council in late 2008, had called for flood protection to extend north of the Quaker plant, but that idea is less of a priority for now because of cost, Elgin said.

City Council member Ann Poe, who chairs the Flood Protection Committee, said she wanted to make sure there was plenty of opportunity for public input as the final alignment for west-side protection is settled on.

At the same time, council member Pat Shey said the alignment needs to lean on the opinions of experts and not leave decisions to citizen hydrologists.

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