Iowa legislators restore funding for Iowa Flood Center in amended budget proposal


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The Iowa Flood Center was established after the devastating flood of 2008. (Alan Light/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | April 14, 2017

The Iowa legislature has amended its 2018 budget proposal to restore $1.2 million in funding to the Iowa Flood Center.

The 2018 fiscal year budget plan was released earlier this week. The education spending bill proposed by Republicans included $20 million in cuts and originally featured a $1.5 million decrease in funding for the flood center. Wednesday evening the House Appropriations committee reinstated 2018 funding for the flood center by transferring $950,000 out of general appropriations to the University of Iowa and another $250,000 from a National Guard educational assistance program.

Representative Ashley Hinson, a Republican from Marion, worked as a news anchor, reporter and producer for KCRG-TV9 in Cedar Rapids during the 2008 floods. He said, “I do know the value of the Flood Center to Cedar Rapids and Linn County, and immediately started having those conversations about its importance to our area specifically with our budget chairs and other appropriations committee members.”

Some Democrats are not pleased with the decision to transfer funds from the University of Iowa, calling it “robbing Peter to pay for Paul.” 

“The solution we found was based on trying to balance our priorities with a tough budget year,” responded Hinson. He added, “It was also my understanding that the Flood Center was a ‘priority’ for the University of Iowa, which is why we felt it appropriate to essentially have them share in funding it. I’m happy we were able to find a solution within our current budget constraints.”

Northeastern Iowa flash flood waters higher than 2008 levels


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Flood waters rose above many bridges along the Upper Iowa River this week. (Michael Massa/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | August 26, 2016

Iowans have seen their fair share of extreme rain events this summer. This week, three northeastern counties were drenched again.

Between six and eight inches of rain fell on Winneshiek, Chickasaw, Allamakee counties over Tuesday night as a series of thunderstorms moved through the area. Upper Iowa River gauges indicated that the river rose more than ten feet overnight near Decorah, Iowa. The area was pelted with almost an inch of rain per hour from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. Residents in Freeport, a small community just east of Decorah, were hit especially hard. Those living along the Upper Iowa River received little notice. Emergency officials notified the neighborhood at about 5 a.m., after much of the flooding had already occurred.

“I woke up this morning when my neighbor called me and said ‘You out of bed yet?’ and I said no and he said, ‘Well you better get up,’ because the water was up to his deck,” said Ron Teslow of Freeport. Teslow had more than three feet of water standing in his basement, and he was more fortunate than others. Jon Aske, also of Freeport, said his basement collapsed in on itself as a result of the flooding, “About 4:15, 4:30 (Wednesday morning) we just heard a crash and the basement foundation crashed in,” he recalled. An emergency shelter was established at a local church for those that were flooded out of their homes.

In Fort Atkinson, a town twenty minutes south of Freeport,  Rogers Creek, a tributary of Turkey River, was reported to have risen nine feet in three hours. City officials said that they expected the Turkey River to crest more than a foot above the 2008 flood levels later Wednesday afternoon. Mayor Paul Herold wondered, “If they’re going to call that a 500 year flood, what are they going to call this?”

Decorah City Manager Chad Bird said the situation was the same in his town.”In some areas of town, the water was higher today than it was in ‘08,” he said referring to the 2008 floods. He pointed out, however, that this flood was due to flash flood conditions whereas the 2008 incident was a prolonged flooding event.

One causality has been reported after a car was swept off the roadway by water from the Turkey River in Chickasaw County early Wednesday morning. Flood warnings stayed in effect until Thursday for most of Northeast Iowa. Richland and Crawford counties of Wisconsin were also effected.

On The Radio – Iowa congressman calls for National Flood Center


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Iowa Representative Dave Loebsack proposes the establishment of National Flood Center at a press conference in June of 2016. (Nick Fetty/CGRER)
Jenna Ladd | July 25, 2016

This week’s On The Radio segment covers congressman Dave Loebsack’s proposal of a National Flood Center last month.

Transcript: Iowa congressman Dave Loebsack proposed the establishment of a National Flood Center during a stop in Iowa City last month.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Representative Loebsack made the announcement at the University of Iowa’s Stanley Hydraulics Laboratory on the eve of the 8th anniversary of the 2008 floods, which devastated much of the congressman’s district in southeast Iowa. Loebsack plans to introduce to congress the National Flood Research and Education Act which would establish a consortium within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to study and mitigate future flooding across the country. While Loebsack’s proposal does not directly call for a center to be established at the University of Iowa, he said he thinks the UI and the Iowa Flood Center already have many of the resources already in place to establish a flood center with a national focus.

Loebsack’s proposal calls for 10 million dollars to fund the center, which he said would be an investment that will save money in the future.

Loebsack:

“Really, I think we’ve got to look at floods in a comprehensive way. I think we have to test new methods and build on promising methods and techniques that these folks can talk to us about so we can better predict and prevent flooding in the future in the first place, and having this national flood center, should we get this legislation through and get it established, I think will allow us really to save lives and protect our families and our businesses and our homes and our communities. And it would save us billions of dollars eventually.”

For more information about Representative Loebsack’s proposal, visit Iowa-Environmental-Focus-dot-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.

Several stream gauges shut down around Iowa


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The U.S.G.S. provides realtime streamflow compared to historical streamflow for each day of the year (U.S.G.S.)
Jenna Ladd | July 13, 2016

Several U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) stream gauges around Iowa were deactivated this month, according to The Gazette of Cedar Rapids. The gauges were initially installed after major floods in 2010 and 2012. Since then, they have cost about 2 million a year to maintain, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Their primary function is to measure the level of the river water and the volume of the water passing through in cubic feet per second.

Many Iowans are concerned about the impacts the deactivation of these gauges may have on accurate and timely predictions of major floods. When recalling the devastating flood of the Wapsipinicon River in 2008, Brenda Leonard, Jones County Emergency Coordinator, says that a warning like those given by river gauges would have been extremely helpful for the community of Anamosa.

While the budget for stream gauges has not been reduced, the cost associated with maintaining them has risen in recent years. In efforts to keep the gauges in service, public and private funding partners have come forward for the Turkey River in Spillville, the Cedar River in Cedar Bluff and the West Nishnabotna and East Nishnabotna rivers near Riverton.

Deactivated gauges in Eastern Iowa include the Volga River in Fayette, the North Fork Maquoketa River below Bear Creek at Dyersville, the Wapsipinicon River in Oxford Mills, the Cedar River in Osage, the Shell Rock River near Rockford and Indian Creek in Marion.

UI sends flood aid to Sioux City


The University of Iowa began to send flood barriers to Sioux City at 9 a.m. today.  The UI hopes to assist flood-threatened Western Iowa by providing the devices that were in storage since 2008.

TheGazette.com reports:

The University of Iowa began to load dozens of HESCO flood barriers on flat bed trucks to send to flood-threatened Sioux City at 9:00 a.m. this morning.

In storage at various buildings on the University of Iowa Campus since the flood of 2008, the University of Iowa is sending all available units to the places in western Iowa that desperately need them.

“The initial call [for barriers] came in last Thursday,” Communications Manager of University of Iowa Facilities Management Wendy Moorehead said. “We’re able to send out around 32,000 linear feet.”

Around 33 flood barriers can fit on a single flatbed truck. The University of Iowa expects to need two trucks to carry all of the units to Sioux City today.

Once all units have been sent out, the University of Iowa will receive replacement HESCO barriers, to replace the ones currently being shipped out of the area next week, at no cost to the University.

“Our risk for flooding here is very minimalized,” Facilities Management employee Allan Culbert said. “They really need them right now.”

Hogg advocates for sustainability


State Senator Hogg

State Senator Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids wrote an editorial for the Des Moines Register last week discussing the need for flood preparation and a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle. 

Check out what he had to say here:

As the floodwaters roll down the Mississippi River, and as Joplin, Mo., copes with a tragic tornado, it is now apparent that we have entered a new era of human history — an era of climate disasters, where human fingerprints are found on disasters previously called “natural.”

Iowa has recently experienced devastating floods like what we are seeing nightly on the news. In 2008, it was not just in Cedar Rapids, but throughout Iowa. In 2010, it happened again, from Cherokee to Colfax, Ames to Ottumwa, the Four Mile Creek neighborhood in Des Moines to Lake Delhi.

We might feel sympathy and even some responsibility as the Mississippi floods our neighbors downriver. But feelings are not enough. In this new era of climate disasters, we need to act – to reduce emissions, to prevent future disasters, and to help victims.

For years, leading scientists have warned that climate change will result in more extreme weather events. In 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that “rising temperatures are expected to increase the frequency and severity of damaging weather-related events, such as flooding or drought.”

Extreme weather events are occurring more often because global warming does not mean slightly warmer temperatures every day everywhere. Rather, it means changes in weather patterns and precipitation patterns. That’s why scientists call it climate change. Continue reading

As Iowa thaws, flood season begins


Photo by Jim Malewitz

Melting snow over the weekend created ice jams along the Des Moines River near Fort Dodge, putting 21 counties under flood warnings and leading 15 families to evacuate their homes.  Continue reading

ISU’s Hornbuckle teams up with European Space Agency to map soil moisture


 

Brian Hornbuckle holds a scale model of a satellite launched last Novemeber that maps soil moisture from space - IowaWatch.org

 

Check out the profile on ISU agronomist Brian Hornbuckle in the Ames Tribune and on IowaWatch.org. And listen to Hornbuckle discuss the importance of soil moisture.

When Brian Hornbuckle cranes his neck to the nighttime sky, he’s probably not pondering the beauty of the constellations, but thinking about what’s in the Iowa soil right under his feet.  Yet he’s neither absent-minded, nor a contradiction. He’s just a man who has found his niche – where astronomy, physics and environmental science collide.

Through his work, Hornbuckle says he hopes to help keep agriculture profitable and to give Iowans better information on how to maintain soil and water quality, and a favorable climate.

Hornbuckle, an associate professor at Iowa State University, thinks of himself as a physical agronomist – a term he coined. It means that he uses physics to study how plants and soil interact with climate. But throw in his expertise in satellite design and data collection, and the work gets even more interesting – interesting enough to land him a role in a European Space Agency project he calls “groundbreaking” and “a perfect fit” for his hodge-podge of interests…

On the Radio: Preventing flood damage


Below is the transcript of the second installment of our radio segment. In it, we once again hammer home the importance of flood prevention. If you can’t catch the clip on the air, you can listen to it here.

Thousands of acres of farmland, hundreds of homes and businesses and a picturesque Lake Delhi are the latest casualties of another flood-filled Iowa summer.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus

This summer, floods have caused millions of dollars in damage to Iowa communities and farms, and 57 of Iowa’s 99 counties have been declared disaster zones.

As rainfall continues to increase, we know that Iowa will flood again.  Though we cannot prevent floods, we can work to limit their damage.

Today, hundreds of urban and rural Iowans are doing just that – they are volunteering with their local soil and water conservation districts or forming watershed groups.  Right now, some 204 watershed programs are underway across the state.

If you would like to become involved in your watershed, contact your county soil and water conservation district.

If we all work together, we can reduce the impact of future floods.

For more information visit Iowa EnvironmentalFocus.org

I’m Jerry Schnoor, from the University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Thank you, and enjoy Iowa’s environment.

Rural-Urban coalitions key to flood preparation


Nathan Young, an Iowa Flood Center researcher, shows off some off some recently-developed mapping technology. - Photo by Joe Bolkcom

On Tuesday, a group of flood researchers and policy makers stopped in Elkader for the first of four  seminars that will examine Iowa’s recent history of flooding, and what communities can do to better prepare for floods.

James Q. Lynch, reporter for the Cedar Rapids Gazette picked up on one key theme of the meeting: Rural-Urban Coalition building:

Flood prevention starts at the upper end of watersheds, but rural-urban coalitions will be needed to develop policies to reduce flood potential and damage, participants in a flood seminar agreed Sept. 7.

“This is not a case of ‘urban rules,'” Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, told about 40 people who attended a state-sponsored seminar on flood preparation in Elkader. “We all have to be in this together.”

A handful of northeast Iowa farmers agreed that practices on their land affect their downstream neighbors, so they should be a part of the solution.

In fact, said Richard Jensen of rural Elgin, that rural-urban partnership exists in the form of taxpayer-supported programs that help defray the cost of water conservation practices on his farmland.

“I’m just an old man with an audience here,” Jensen said, “but the real solution is to treat the cause – the upper end of the watershed.”

Right now, there are over 204 watershed projects completed or underway, according to Wayne Petersen, of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

For more information on the flood preparation, and to view the speakers’ presentations, check out CGRER’s post-event resource page.

On September 14, researchers will head west to Cherokee for a 4:00p.m. presentation. Late last June, Cherokee residents and business owners were forced to evacuate as heavy rains caused the Little Sioux River to spill over its banks.