116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
When it comes to completing Cedar Rapids’ flood control system, city leaders wisely recognize the need for speed.
So thanks to an infusion of more federal funding, along with state and local funding, the city is picking up the pace of flood control projects along the Cedar River in the city’s core, in all four quadrants.
Army Corps of Engineers funding is being put to work on the east side of the river. On the west side, dollars from the American Rescue Plan are helping accelerate projects, in particular the Northwest Neighborhood and Time Check. During the last fiscal year, the city spent over $45 million on flood control and $10 million in the current budget.
Amid nagging supply chain issues and rising inflation, the city is taking smart steps to keep projects moving, including stockpiling materials, purchasing early to stay ahead of projects and working with single contractors to create efficiencies.
Speed, of course, is of the essence because the next flood could be on the horizon.
Thanks to climate change, Iowa, and in particular Eastern Iowa, has seen a steady increase in the frequency of heavy rainfall events. Warming water in the Gulf of Mexico is one end of an atmospheric conveyor belt that brings moisture into the Midwest. Warmer air can carry more of that moisture. What was once considered a 100-year flood in Iowa is now a 25-year flood.
Cedar Rapids’ two largest floods have come within the last 14 years, in June 2008 and September 2016.
So through building walls, levees, gates and other measures, Cedar Rapids is seeking to adapt. The system is being built to withstand a 2008 flood plus one foot. The city also is being proactive, adopting a climate response plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
The faster the flood control system is completed, the faster the city’s core is protected from rising waters, with the side benefits outdoor recreation in the greenway along the river and new economic development on protected land.
Here’s to hoping the accelerated pace can continue, and that the measures being taken will be enough to hold off the next epic flood.
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