The Iowa Utilities Board Approves the Cardinal Hickory Creek Transmission Line for Renewable Energy


Image via Flickr

Nicole Welle | June 1, 2020

The Iowa Utilities Board issued an order approving the Iowa portion of the Cardinal Hickory Creek transmission line last week.

This line will increase the amount of renewable energy able to access the power grid in the Midwest. The line will stretch approximately 102 miles from Dane County, Wisconsin to Dubuque County, Iowa and cross the Mississippi River. The Iowa side of the line is about 14 miles long, according to an ATC news release.

These improvements to the power grid will increase service reliability, enable the expansion of wind energy in the Midwest and provide economic benefits to the state of Iowa. It will also allow over 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy to enter the grid, and the subsequent expansion of wind energy in the state will increase land lease payments to farmers and revenue to local governments, according to an Iowa Environmental Council news release.

The line’s Mississippi River crossing raised some concerns over impacts on fish and other wildlife. However, the necessary regulatory approvals have been obtained from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and those in charge of the project kept environmental impacts in mind when choosing the location of the crossing.

Construction of the line will begin in the spring of 2021, and it is set to go into service in 2023.

A Study Reveals that the Missouri River Basin Was Recently the Driest It’s Been in 1,200 Years


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Nicole Welle | May 14th, 2020

Between 2000 and 2010, the Missouri River was the driest it has been in 1,200 years, according to a study published Monday.

The study showed that rising temperatures linked to climate change was the cause. The higher temperatures reduced snowfall in the rocky mountains, resulting in reduced runoff into the Missouri River basin. Researchers involved with “The Turn-Of-The-Century Drought Study” studied instrumental data on water levels collected over the last 100 years but had to rely on tree rings to give them an idea of when droughts occurred and how severe they were over previous centuries. This study concluded that the Missouri River has not been that low since a single drought event in the 13th century.

Continued droughts could be disastrous for farmers in the Midwest who rely on the Missouri River for crop irrigation and municipalities that use it as a fresh water source. Species of freshwater fish and waterfowl, tourism industries, and hydropower production along the Missouri River could also be negatively impacted, according to a Washington Post article.

This study only focussed on the years between 2000 and 2010, but data from more recent years shows that droughts in the Midwest are likely to increase in frequency and severity in coming years due to climate change.

Flood sensor updates to help protect Iowans this spring


Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 11.47.56 AM
The Iowa Flood Center’s Iowa Flood Information System shows the location of flood sensors throughout the state.

Julia Poska | March 17, 2020

Two major updates to Iowa’s network of flood sensors will help protect citizens and property this spring, when projections predict the state will see major flooding.

The Iowa Flood Center recently received $150,000 from the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, according to KCRG.  The IFC also received $30,000 from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The network’s service provider is phasing-out the previously used technology, according to KCRG, so the funding will provide new modems and data plans to keep the sensors running.

The Iowa Department of Transportation has also installed five new flood sensors along the Iowa-Nebraska state boundary, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported. Areas in both states along the Missouri River were devastated by floods last spring. With elevated flood risk forecast for this year, the sensors could help Iowa and Nebraska officials coordinate disaster response.

Nebraska nuclear plant to restart


Photo by Michael Kappel; Flickr

A Nebraska nuclear plant that has been idle for nearly three years, due to flooding and a series of safety concerns, was cleared to restart on Tuesday. Continue reading

Missouri River ranked 4th on “most endangered” list


Flooding from the Missouri River along the Iowa – Nebraska border. Photo by OmahaUSACE, Flickr.

According to American Rivers, an environmental conservation group, the Missouri River is number four on a new list of the country’s most endangered waterways. The group said the Missouri suffers from outdated flood management, as evidenced by the 2011 floods.

Eileen Fretz, spokeswoman for the group, said that after last year’s flooding, management of the Missouri needs to take a new direction.

“Just relying on dams and levees hasn’t been enough to protect us and we need to acknowledge that flooding happens and we need to accommodate for a little bit of that,” Fretz says. “We think that flood plain restoration can help us meet those needs.”

Fretz advises Iowans and Nebraskans to take action by visiting the group’s website, www.americanrivers.org.

For more information, read the full article at Radio Iowa.

Asian silver carp may spread to Iowa Great Lakes


Photo by michiganseagrant, Flickr.

The Asian silver carp continue to present issues for Iowa’s waterways. These fish entered a tributary of the Missouri River last year when floods allowed them to swim over the top of dams.

The carp could soon spread to the Iowa Great Lakes.

One major issue with the carp is that they leap out of the water and are capable of damaging vehicles and harming people that they make contact with.

Many Iowans feel that an electric barrier is necessary to keep the fish from spreading, but the Legislature has denied requests for funding so far.

Read more about the carp, and watch a video clip of the leaping fish, at the Des Moines Register’s website here.

Nebraska nuclear power plant under threat


Photo by US Department of Agriculture, Flickr

As the water levels on the Missouri River begin to grow, the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant’s situation becomes more dire.

Read more from Examiner.com here:

After the Army released near record water from six major reservoirs, levees have failed to hold the Missouri River so flooding now poses a “serious threat” to Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant according to today’s International Business Times article.

IBTimes Staff Reporter reported at 4:17 AM EDT that “Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant was reportedly very close to getting engulfed by the floodwaters, raising fears of a crisis similar to Japan’s Fukushima disaster.”

The nuclear plant declared the event as “unusual.” Continue reading

Nebraska power plant surrounded by flood waters


Iowa is certainly not the only state in the Midwest affected by flooding. Reuters reports that Nebraskans faced a scare when the Fort Calhoun nuclear power station became surrounded by water due to Missouri River flooding. Fortunately, the plant remains unharmed, and there’s no expectation that the flood will breach the barriers surrounding the facility:

The rising river “has certainly affected the site, but the plant itself, the actual reactor is still dry,” said Scott Burnell, Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman.

The 478-megawatt plant north of Omaha shut April 9 to refuel, and has remained shut because of the flooding, said Omaha Public Power District spokesman Jeff Hanson.

“When the river reaches 1,004 feet above mean sea level, we shut down,” said Hanson. “We don’t have any idea when we’ll be able to start again.” Continue reading

Iowa Flood Center to learn from Western Iowa flooding


Photo by Denise Krebs, Flickr

Researchers at the Iowa Flood Center see the flooding on the western Iowa border as an opportunity to learn more and prevent future floods.

Read the University of Iowa News release below:

As floodwaters on the Missouri River move relentlessly toward Iowa’s western border, scientists at the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) are making plans to study the water’s movements. Most of the western edge of the state faces the threat of flooding from the Missouri in the days and weeks ahead.

Iowa Flood Center Director Witold Krajewski says the IFC is planning to take aerial photographs of the flooded areas this week, collaborating with the University of Iowa’s Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL), which will fly one of its instrumented aircraft, a Beechcraft A-36 Bonanza, to conduct the photography sessions. The high-resolution photography, combined with statewide LiDAR (laser radar) data already available, will allow researchers to delineate the boundaries of inundated areas and compare these with existing floodplain maps. The improved maps will help Iowans know what to expect during future floods.

“We hope to take the photos at the peak stage of the flood,” Krajewski says. “The results will be extremely valuable as we continue to develop floodplain maps, which are useful for planners and property owners.” Continue reading

Missouri River levee breaches near Hamburg


Photo by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security

The Des Moines Register is reporting that there will be flooding near Hamburg within days as the Missouri River rises.

Their report:

The U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers reports that the previously damaged Missouri River  levee  has breached south of Hamburg, Ia. in Atchison County, Mo.

Floodwaters should not reach Hamburg for a day or two, the  Fremont County, Iowa  sheriff’s office reported.

Mike Crecelius, emergency management coordinator for Fremont County, said 961 county residents have left the Hamburg area either voluntarily or in mandatory evacuations.  He said no one is left in the area expected to get water.

If the beefed-up levee on the south and west edges of town holds, Hamburg may not flood, Crecelius said. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad is pulling a 1125-foot  section of tracks so the Corps can fortify the levee and seal off town. Continue reading