Cedar Rapids celebrates next phase of flood protection, but some areas feel left out

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Cedar Rapids broke ground on a $2.5 million flood gate in the Newbo-Czech Village area Tuesday.

Officials participate in a ceremonial groundbreaking of new federally-funded flood protection in Cedar Rapids on Oct. 8, 2019 (Randy Dircks/KCRG)

This is the first federal funding the city has received for flood protection. The retractable wall will be capable of holding floodwaters up to that of which were seen in the 2008 flood, but some feel they are being left out.

“I built here in 2009 because I felt downtown Cedar Rapids lacked the downtown environment,” Juliet Pae, owner of Fix Salon, said.

Pae’s storefront is in Kingston Village which also saw severe flooding in 2008 and again in 2016.

“We had seven feet of water in the basement in 2016,” Pae said.

The city is currently working on flood mitigation projects in the Kingston Village area such as pump stations and levees, but Pae wants more long-lasting protection.

“They’re not thinking everything completely through,” Pae said.

Mayor Brad Hart doesn’t disagree.

“Until we have all done we’re still at risk obviously,” Hart said.

He said there is more work that needs to be done to protect businesses like Fix Salon and this groundbreaking could mean more focus on the Kingston Village area.

“There is so much going on on the East side now with the Army Corps that we might be able to step up the efforts,” Hart said.

Hart said the Army Corps of Engineers will finish its work in about four years, but Pae said that’s four years too long.

“As much as I really love having all of the new stuff that’s happening in downtown Cedar Rapids, I love all the changes and all the people that are moving down here, we still need to think about protecting us,” Pae said. “It’s inevitable, we’re down on the river, it’s going to flood again, and when it floods again, how much renovation is it going to take this time.

“Mayor Hart said the Council is exploring how they could use more federal dollars through the Department of Transportation to rebuild the 8th Avenue bridge.