Government

Flood system tweak would aid businesses and Cedar Lake

But the alternative route would mean spending millions more

Ron Kositzky of Cedar Rapids kayaks on Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Ron Kositzky of Cedar Rapids kayaks on Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A possible change to the flood control system planned along the east side of the Cedar River could protect an additional 85 to 90 businesses and make Cedar Lake more usable, Cedar Rapids officials say.

A flood control master plan earlier approved by City Council largely excluded the industrial area north of downtown. That design has the east side system extending along the river from downtown north to Quaker Oats, and then curling east around a Cargill Inc. property toward C Avenue NE and downtown.

Engineers have been studying an alternative alignment that would continue upstream from Quaker to the north industrial area. It would wrap around Cedar Lake and tie into high ground beyond an Alliant Energy warehouse property on Shaver Road NE.

The alternate design has some trade offs. It would cost more and require work to prevent flooding of nearby McLoud Run. But it would protect dozens more businesses from floodwater and eliminate the need for gates across federal railroads, said Rob Davis, Cedar Rapids flood control manager.

“It seems like a pretty good additional investment to protect that number of properties,” Davis said.

Cedar Rapids is hosting an open house to discuss the latest designs for this industrial area. The event is from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Cedar Rapids Water Department Administration Building, 1111 Shaver Road NE. Parking and access to the open house is available at the back of the building, through the gated entrance. Brief presentations will be offered at 4:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m.

Davis said a focus of the meeting would be on plans to mitigate flooding from McLoud Run, including widening the urban trout stream and raising and lengthening the Shaver Road bridge over McLoud Run. Engineers have been studying McLoud Run and solutions to avoid flooding backups in upstream neighborhoods since January, Davis said.

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“While protecting from the Cedar River, we don’t want to exacerbate flooding of McLoud Run,” he said.

The alternative design costs about $25 million more, although the amount is built into the $550 million — based on today’s dollars — estimate of the total flood system cost, he said.

Alternative flood control design around Cedar Lake

The alternate design, which consists of a berm, is more reliable for flood protection than the current design, which consists of a flood wall and gates, because it eliminates six gates, Davis said. Gates leak, require more maintenance and have moving parts that can fail, he said. In the event of a flood, gates require more time and labor to be put in place, which could be problematic under time constraints, he said.

Environmental testing still is underway, he said. Barring red flags, which have not appeared yet, staff will present the alternate design option to the City Council for approval within the next six months, he said.

Regardless of whether council members stick to the current design or opt for the alternate, this section likely will see construction activity in the next five years, he said.

Those in the industrial area say they like what they are hearing about the alternate design.

“I can’t imagine anyone here would not be in favor,” said Charles Schimberg, co-owner of Schimberg Co., 1106 Shaver Road NE, a pipe, valves and fittings distributor. “I am pleased with all the research the city has put forward, and I hope they move in this direction.”

Schimberg said he was impressed with the level of studying out into all the possible scenarios by city officials.

Mike Ivester, co-owner of Sag Wagon Deli and Brew, 827 Shaver Road NE, said he still is learning the details but he favors anything that would provide more protection to the businesses in that area. The property flooded in 2008 and required extensive sandbagging in 2016, he said.

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“We are in a pretty ideal spot where we are at,” Ivester said. “It would be nice if it was protected. Maybe we’d make more of an investment. Flooding has always been a worry. Do we invest here or move somewhere else?”

Protecting the business properties as well as Coe College, UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital and the Mound View neighborhood has been the motivation behind the alternate design. But a nice byproduct is that it also protects Cedar Lake, Davis said.

An advocacy group has been working with public officials and private executives at Alliant Energy, which owns the lake, on a plan to clean up the lake and enhance its recreational offerings.

Felicia Wyrick, a spokeswoman for the Friends of Cedar Lake, said the group favors the alternate alignment.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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