Loebsack Hopes Threat of Flooding Stronger than Partisanship

By James Lynch, Reporter

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa speaks at the Sheraton Hotel in Iowa City, Iowa, on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Kyle Grillot)


By Rachel Begle

IOWA CITY, Iowa – U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack is hoping that climate change will help him win support for his proposal to establish a national flood center at the University of Iowa.

Not the kind of climate change that some would argue is contributing to more flooding across the country, but a different climate in Congress.

Loebsack believes that since he first introduced his National Flood Research and Education Act two years ago the attitude toward flood prevention, mitigation and recovery has changed.

“There’s been a lot more flood events, Hurricane Sandy and others,” Loebsack said at an Iowa City press conference at the Beckwith Boathouse on the bank of the Iowa River Aug. 6. “I think there’s a lot more seriousness of purpose to do what we can to make sure we understand why floods occur, to make sure we have the kinds of recovery we need from floods and to make sure we do what we can to prevent floods in the future.”

The Iowa City Democrat is proposing a national flood center that would bring together academia and federal agencies involved in flood prevention and recovery.

The concept of a flood center drawing on the resources of federal agencies and academic institutions to increase public safety and reduce the economic losses associated with floods is a “forward-looking plan” said Witold Krajewski, director of the UI Flood Center.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, flooding causes more damage in the United States than any other severe weather related event -- an average of $5.3 billion a year for the 30-year periods from 1975 to 2004.

“Floods are complex societal problems,” Krajewski said. The center “can work shoulder-to-shoulder with federal and state agencies” on long- and short-term strategies.

The center would bring together ideas and solutions from many disciplines and accelerate the process of building resilient communities,” Krajewski said.

Johnson County Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said the community saw the benefit of the UI Flood Center during flooding earlier this year. The information it provided allowed Iowa City, Coralville and other Iowa River communities to take appropriate preventive measures such as putting flood walls, he said.

He called the national flood center an “investment that, quite frankly, I think is quite minimal compared to what happens after a disaster.”

“Hopefully, the message that other congress people around the United States are going to get is that if you invest a little here you can save a whole lot of money in the future,” Neuzil said.

It’s Loebsack’s hope that if his proposal is approved and funded -- $10 million a year to be divided between NOAA and the center, the UI can lead a consortium of universities that already are working on hydrology and flood-related projects.

Despite the apparent inability of Congress to pass any legislation, Loebsack is hopeful that the threat of flood damage is stronger than partisanship.

“Floods don’t know political parties … don’t know about partisanship. The water doesn’t care whether you are Democrat or Republican,” Loebsack said. “This is all over the country, in all kinds of districts.”

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