Iowa Flood Center hoping for budget increase to upgrade, add flood prep technology

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Staff members at the Iowa Flood Center say recent budget cuts are keeping them from upgrading and adding new technology. Now they are calling on lawmakers to increase their budget.

The Iowa Flood Center sits along the Iowa River in Iowa City. They are hoping to see their budget increased to fill an increased demand for their technology. (Aaron Scheinblum, KCRG)

The Iowa Flood Center monitors about 250 bridge sensors across Iowa. The flood center is considering adding about 100 more, but they are unsure where that funding will come from, after budget cuts from two years ago are starting to create even more challenges.

"This is about protecting lives and property," said Dr. Witold Krajewski, the Director of the Iowa Flood Center in Iowa City.

Dr. Krajewski oversees the group, and says the center monitors hundreds of what they call "bridge sensors." The sensors allow for electronic tracking of water levels from rivers and streams.

"The word is out that they are useful, " Dr. Krajewski said. "There is only one little problem- that even though they are inexpensive, they do cost money."

Each of the sensors cost about $3,600 to install brand-new. But that would only cover the 100 potentially new sensors.

Another cost the flood center is facing relates to the current sensors already installed across the state: the wireless provider they use, Verizon, told the flood center they will having to switch all of the sensors from 3G technology to 4G- a change that could cost $200 per sensor.

The seemingly steep cost, Dr. Krajewski says is actually cheaper than what other organizations would charge for the type of technology that the flood center provides.

In order to secure the funding, Dr. Krajewski and other staff members will need to convince state lawmakers to increase their budget.

Rep. Amy Nielsen, a Democrat who represents Johnson County, says the funding should be an easy decision to make, regardless of party lines.

"I can't think of a community anywhere in the state that wouldn't benefit from this," Rep. Nielsen said.

"We need to protect our communities as a state government- and that's a very simple thing, and a pretty inexpensive thing that we can do," Rep. Nielsen said.

"Certain levels trigger certain actions," Dr. Krajewski said. "Having access to that information allows people to make informed decisions."

Dr. Krajewski says the current budget is less than $1.2 million. The budget was cut from $1.5 million two years ago. Dr. Krajewski estimates if the budget was increased to $1.8 million, they would have enough to upgrade the technology necessary, and add the new technology to the 100 new locations.a