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Linn County considers more flood protections

The county likely will seek cost estimates, proposals from professional companies

The Cedar River is shown at flood stage by May’s Island in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — With two major floods in the last eight years under their belts, Linn County Supervisors want to explore if additional flood protection measures should be taken.

The Board of Supervisors on Monday discussed the possibility of seeking professional consulting for flood protections for the county’s courthouse and jail — on May’s Island — and the nearby Linn County Sheriff’s Office on the west side of the Cedar River.

The board on Wednesday will vote to have staff seek proposals, with possible flood protection solutions and cost estimates, from professional companies.

“There’s so many pieces to this puzzle ... I just think that this would be a good time to invest with a professional firm that can weigh out the different prospects and help us move forward with this,” Supervisor Jim Houser said. “We’re fooling ourselves if we don’t do anything.”

Houser said one option is installing the foundation for temporary flood walls around the three structures. In times of rising water, aluminum walls would be erected.

Garth Fagerbakke, Linn County facilities director, said rough cost estimates from one company for foundations and 12-foot removable walls was about $3.5 million for the sheriff’s office and another $5 million for the courthouse and jail.

If Cedar Rapids’s long awaited flood mitigation effort — the city has designed a $625 million flood control system, but it hinges on getting federal money — comes to fruition, the sheriff’s office likely would not need flood walls, Fagerbakke said.

Supervisor Brent Oleson said his hope is the companies provide a comprehensive look at all options for the county buildings, including possible subbasement work.

“I just won’t want it to be so focused that somehow a wall is going to solve everything,” Oleson said.

After 2008’s flood, the county installed 19.6-foot river walls on May’s Island. However, the Cedar River reached a nearly 22 feet crest this fall, and water that came over the concrete river walls and groundwater seeped into the courthouse’s basement.

Groundwater also caused damage to the basement sheriff’s office.

The county has estimated the 2016 flood, which includes flood protection efforts, added employee hours and damage, to cost about $700,000.

Steve Estenson, Linn County risk manager, said the county’s flood insurance should cover about half the cost.

“Given what we just did, we’re looking at spending about $350,000 for this one event,” he said.