Federal Shutdown Affects Major Iowa City Flood Project
By Gregg Hennigan and Mark Carlson, Reporters
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The shutdown of the federal government also is having an effect on Iowa City’s top flood-mitigation project.
The city was nearing completion of a federally required evaluation on the impact its Gateway Project, which is the proposed elevation of flood-prone Dubuque Street and the Park Road bridge, would have on the Iowa River and neighboring properties.But the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which is an independent federal agency, recently recommended that review be reopened to get more public input.
The Federal Highway Administration is responding to that request, but with the federal shutdown, that is delayed. The agency is not affected by the shutdown, but the historic preservation council is closed, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
“We’re in the final stages of that, and it’s just stalled,” Rick Fosse, Iowa City’s public works director, said Tuesday night.
The City Council met Tuesday night for the second of two scheduled work sessions to review the project.The council did not make any decisions on the height of Dubuque Street and the bridge and the style of bridge, and it would not have been ready to do that even if the federal government was operating.
But just as they did last month, a few council members indicated they are looking for a smaller project than city staff and the city’s consultant, HNTB Corp. in Kansas City, Mo., are recommending.Staff is recommending Dubuque Street be elevated a foot above the 2008 flood level.Fosse laid out three main options for the bridge, with the preferred alternative being a deck girder style a foot above the 500-year flood level. That would reduce water backup by 7 inches.
Combined with the Dubuque Street work, the project would approach $45 million, Fosse said. The city has secured $36.3 in funding from a special sales tax and the state and federal governments and would bond for the rest, he said.
Council members Connie Champion and Jim Throgmorton said a foot above the 100-year flood level seemed adequate. Throgmorton noted that city staff said at that height, Dubuque Street would have closed for just seven days due to flooding the past 20 years instead of the 150 days it has been closed.
“That’s not a big cost,” he said.
Earlier in the meeting, Fosse reviewed a few projects the city undertook after the 1993 flood that that were built to a foot above a 100-year flood. All were overcome in 2008, and he said the same would have happened with Dubuque Street at that height.
“It would have been inundated, and like that other projects, I suspect there would have been a desire to update our protection,” he said.
At the council’s 7 p.m. regular meeting, residents spoke about the project. Some people who live in the area have raised concerns about the affect the project as proposed would have on the environment and historic properties.
Joe Coulter, of 1818 N. Dubuque St., said he’s well aware of the flooding problems, but he favors moving the road to the west and raising it by no more than a foot or two. He said the possible elevation of it by more than 10 feet would have serious consequences for his home.
“I wish to again register my strong objection to the Iowa City Gateway Project preferred alternative design,” he told the council.
Rebecca Neades, vice president of public policy for the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favor of the project, saying the closure of Dubuque Street during flooding hurts downtown businesses.
What's On KCRG