IOWA CITY - No University of Iowa buildings have taken on floodwater, and officials hope damage to campus will remain minimal and costs contained to the estimated $5 million for setting up and eventually tearing down temporary flood barriers.
Workers built seven miles of temporary walls along the Iowa River on campus using HESCO barriers in just three days, UI President Sally Mason told Gov. Terry Branstad during a campus visit Monday.
"They're having the right effect. They're keeping water out of the buildings, so they're keeping us from sustaining any more damage," Mason said. "At this point we're very encouraged."
The lack of rain in recent days has helped, as has the university's proactive stance on flood protection, Mason said.
Any damage sustained thus far would be to the landscape as workers have prepared for possible flooding since last week, but there has been no flood damage to UI facilities, said Rod Lehnertz, director of campus planning, design and construction.
The HESCO barriers on campus likely will stay up for much of the summer, to be safe, Mason said.
Branstad, who also made a stop in Coralville before visiting the UI campus, said he was encouraged by what he saw and heard from local government and university officials Monday. It's especially heartening to hear Coralville Lake is now projected to stay below the spillway, he said.
"I think the city of Iowa City and Coralville, the University of Iowa, have all done a great job preparing for this," Branstad said. "Obviously this is a big task putting up all these HESCO barriers, but it was an important precautionary measure so we didn't have the kind of devastation that we saw in 2008."
Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek said institutional collaboration between local governments, the university and state and federal partners was much better in this round of flooding compared to 2008. He also noted the importance of flood mitigation efforts the cities and the UI have made since the flood five years ago.
"You will see the fruits of that labor, you're seeing it right now," he said.
Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Iowa City, said such disasters underscore the importance of having federal funds set aside to help individuals and communities. All levels of government must be prepared to provided the needed resources after disasters, he said.
Loebsack said he also would like a closer look at watershed management nationwide, and he thinks the UI-housed Iowa Flood Center can be used as a model for a national flood center.
Branstad agreed it makes sense at the state and federal levels to have funds set aside specifically for emergencies."I think we need to recognize that every year there's going to be some emergencies instead of treating them as a one-time occurrence," Branstad said.