The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Water-filled bladders and sand-filled baskets to provide temporary flood protection; but cost too great to protect New Bohemia/Oak Hill

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Floods on February 25, 2009 at 9:56 pm

The City Council moved ahead to purchase a temporary flood control system to protect many of the flood-prone parts of the city to some degree until permanent protection is in place.

The temporary system, which will cost $6.6 million for materials and mobilization if needed, will be available this flood season.

The council approved the concept of a temporary system a few weeks ago, but wanted to hear more about why it was too expensive to protect the lowest-lying area along the river, the New Bohemia/Oak Hill area.

Last night, the council agreed with consultant Stanley Consultants Inc., Muscatine, Iowa, that it did not make sense to spend an additional $3 million to protect property valued at about $2 million below Eighth Avenue SE on the east side of the river in what is New Bohemia/Oak Hill.

Council member Brian Fagan suggested that maybe that area could be the first to see the coming permanent flood protection when it is built in the years ahead.

The temporary system features a product called a tiger dam, in which water fills bladders, and a product called a Hesco Concertainers, in which sand is used to fill plastic-lined mesh baskets.

The latter was used in Johnson and Des Moines counties last year.

Once the flood forecast is for the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids to reach 20 feet, the city will mobilize the temporary protection. It will protect Time Check, Czech Village and both sides of the river downtown to a river stage measured at a downtown river gauge of 24 feet.

The city twice has had flood water reach 20 feet in its history. The only time it was higher was last June, when the river reached 31.12 feet.

Protecting to 24 feet will protect 830 homes and $21.3 million in property value, consultant Jim Kill, of Stanley Consultants Inc., Muscatine, Iowa, told the council last night.

Kill called that “a good ratio” between the cost of temporary protection and the amount of value being protected.

He said the ratio “validated” the council’s earlier decision to protect to 24 feet. 

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  1. Maybe I’m mistaken, but didn’t the City recently have Skogman build a bunch of $100k+ homes in the Oak Hill neighborhood, and aren’t they trying to get people to move in to the Cherry Building and the “Bottle Works” building?

    If some people wonder why not everyone trusts our local government to spend money wisely, this would be a prime example. I understand the concept of cost/benefit ratios, but either you want to encourage growth in an area and protect it, or you don’t want to promote growth in an area. Allowing brand new homes (which the City subsidized) to flood may be penny-wise, but it’s VERY pound-foolish.

  2. JB,
    All or nearly all of the new Skogman homes are higher than the level reached by the June 2008 flood, Kyle Skogman, Skogman Homes president, has told The Gazette. At this point, he is building 15 homes there with hopes to build more. Skogman and others are targeting an area of Oak Hill in which the city has purchased vacant lots for redevelopment. Some of those lots, no doubt, did take on some water in 2008. So good point, it will be interesting to see if development plans slow on some lots because of the decision on temporary flood protection. It’s probably fair to say that one option would have been for the city not to purchase temporary flood protection for anything. Another point: A Des Moines developer, Jack Hatch, has proposed plans for two apartment buildings in Oak Hill on vacant land that did take on water in 2008. Hatch has designed the buildings to flood, with parking on the first floor. — Rick Smith

  3. Interesting. I’m curious about this. I grew up just across Mt. Vernon Road from Oakhill/Jackson and had lots of friends in that neighborhood. If we performed cost/benefit ratios on everything that government paid for, would we ever pay for anything. I think the residents of Oakhill/Jackson may have a legitimate concern regarding this one.

  4. Tell me how are they going to protect it from coming up through the sewer system. That’s where all begins, in the streets and in the buildings. Last I heard they would not be able to prevent or stop it. Ah the sweet smell of raw sewage. Spending Millions on a little bitty flood wall is going to stop this force. Now that to me is a waste of money.

  5. Westside Res, I beleive is right. Can any city official or worker show where at 20′ the water causes major property damage by OVER-TOPPING of flood protection already inplace? So at 20′ this city is going to implement the temporary flood protection? Is this for what? Incrediible mistakes being made in the crest levels? To implement the temp flood protection at 20′ is a huge waste of money,as it will not keep water out of sewers and backing up into peoples houses and neighborhood streets and Mays island buildings.

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