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Ellis Harbor boat houses better off this time

Better floats, more preparation time helped owners

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CEDAR RAPIDS — As with most of the rest of Cedar Rapids, the mostly part-time residents of Ellis Harbor learned a lot from their traumatic experiences in the 2008 floods.

“We didn’t know what to expect last time. The water came up so fast nobody had time to prepare,” recalled Dave Fear of Hiawatha, who has maintained a boat house at the harbor since the 1980s. “This time we were ready for it.”

Fear said he and most other Ellis Harbor residents removed almost everything from their dwellings to lighten them and increase their buoyancy.

Don Steichen of Cedar Rapids, whose two boat houses were among the more than 70 lost to floodwaters eight years ago, said more stringent post-flood regulations — including foam-filled floats instead of plastic barrels and stronger systems to keep the vessels anchored to shore — paid off this time around, when no boat houses were lost and only one sank.

That the recent Cedar River crest was more than nine feet lower than the 31.12-foot record crest of eight years ago no doubt also helped.

Dean Brown, an Ellis Park boat house owner since 1985, said his two side-by-side structures sustained minor damage, mostly from banging against each other.

Brown, Steichen and Fear all praised the cooperative and supportive spirit of their boat house neighbors.

“I had a lot of people helping me get ready for this one,” said Brown, who was hosing flood residue from a sidewalk leading to his place on Saturday morning.

“Everybody helps everybody else get ready for and recover from a flood,” Fear said.

“It’s a great community. We don’t want to see anyone get damaged,” said Steichen, who was still wearing his wet suit Saturday morning after going into the river to help neighbors stabilize a patio/dock that floodwaters had turned on its side.

David Petersen, also of Cedar Rapids and the owner of the rescued dock, said the structure may have sustained some twisted boards but no major damage.

“Thank God for this community of people who are here to help,” he said.

People dropping off sandbags at Ellis Park were advised Saturday to use Edgewood Road NW to access Ellis Lane NW to get to the main park entrance. Access via O Ave NW and Ellis Boulevard NW has been disrupted by barrier removal.

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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