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Completed Bee Branch Creek project increases flooding protection in Dubuque

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 4:49 AM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Dubuque city leaders celebrated on Thursday the completion of an important milestone for the Bee Branch Creek Railroad Culverts Project.

Six new stormwater pipes at the Bee Branch Creek are now functional and provide the city protection up to a 500-year flood event. The culverts project involved micro-tunneling six eight-foot diameter pipes under the railroad tracks and the construction of upstream and downstream underground transition structures, a pumping station, and a water level control system.

Deron Muehring, a civil engineer with the city, said the addition of the pipes could not come soon enough.

”With the way weather patterns have been changing, what was yesterday’s 100-year storm is now the 50-year storm,” he mentioned.

Installing the pipes is part of a larger flood mitigation project. Muehring said it took 20 years to get to this point. Two gate sections can be lowered and raised to prevent the Upper Bee Branch from flooding when the downstream water level is high. Muehring said this will prevent major flooding, specifically in the city’s North End.

Iowa state senator Pam Jochum, a Dubuque native, has experienced that flooding herself.

”I remember back in 1999, we had a six-inch rainfall, and I was standing in three feet of water in my basement,” she remembered.

Muehring explained around 1,300 property owners who live in the city’s North End neighborhood have had their buildings sustain damage during rainstorms. He said the addition of the stormwater pipes will provide relief to them.

“They no longer have to worry about having a flooded basement or flood damage, missing work because you have got to rip out carpeting in your house or something,” he added.

The project also including converting some tube culverts, which had served the drainage system through the rail tracks for many years, for dual purpose.

“People will actually be able to hike or bike through them from one side of the rail track to the other, which will have a huge impact for those neighborhoods because the train track can be a barrier for getting from one side of the community to the other,” Muehring explained.

The Bee Branch flood mitigation project was a $240 million effort spread over 40 years. The creek project itself cost about $100 million. Muehring said the funds came from local money, partnerships with state and federal agencies, the state flood mitigation program, a Human Urban Development (HUD) grant, and private citizens.

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