Johnson County Supervisors request new Coralville Lake plan

Current plan in place since 1995

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to send a funding request for changing the Coralville Lake’s management plan, which the supervisors believe is contributing to avoidable flooding.

The management plan is controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers and outlines the regulations for how and when water is released from the lake. The reservoir has operated on the same management plan since 1995. Because of the Corps’ federal regulations, the plan limits how much water Coralville engineers can release from the reservoir without formal permission.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take to get the federal government to wake up and realize we have climate change and they need a better management plan,” said Janelle Rettig, Johnson County Supervisor. “I just hope this gets taken care of before there’s yet again another flood. It’s kind of outrageous that their management plan is so antiquated.”

The supervisors want local Corps’ officials to have more discretion over water levels. The proposed funding would go toward studying and rewriting the management plans for Coralville Lake, Saylorville Lake and Lake Red Rock. The same funding was proposed in 2008 with an estimated cost of $10 million.

The University of Iowa Flood Center already researches the Coralville Lake to predict and monitor flooding in the area, but the center’s research has limited effect on crisis flood mitigation because the Coralville Corps of Engineers have to get approval to make any substantial changes to the water level — a process that’s not always quick.

“They were letting out 1,000 cubic feet per second the week before we were in crisis mode and declaring a disaster,” Rettig said. “I don’t get how that’s good management. I think people in the community are going to tell you that the corps’ management plan is ridiculous.”

The board’s letter highlighted the Flood Center as an “invaluable resource” for the revising the management plan.

“This planning was done before the climate change that we have witnessed over the past couple decades and they did not account for six, seven and even 12-inch rains,” said Supervisor Rod Sullivan. “That simply didn’t happen 30 or 40 years ago. We have to adjust to the new reality.”

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