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

With flood forecast for Red River of the North, Cedar Rapids official assures new temporary protection systems here will be at the ready if Cedar River acts up

In City Hall, Floods on March 20, 2009 at 9:26 pm

The Red River of the North is acting up again as melting winter snow and forecasts of rain are forcing Fargo and Grand Forks, N.D., to think anew about flooding.

Those paid to think about flooding in Cedar Rapids appear to be following the latest from North Dakota. Which isn’t surprising. After all, Cedar Rapids city officials, who are working to help the city recover from its June 2008 flood, have paid a great deal of attention to Grand Forks since June and to how that city recovered from its flood in 1997.

Late Friday afternoon, Craig Hanson, the city of Cedar Rapids’ public works maintenance manager, took time to update the public on temporary flood protection systems that the Cedar Rapids City Council in recent weeks voted to purchase.

The systems consist of water-filled bladders, called tiger dams, and Hesco wire baskets, which are filled with sand.

Hanson said the tiger dams purchased by the city arrived on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the city finalized the purchase of the Hesco baskets, some of which will be shipped as soon as this coming Tuesday.

The tiger dams and the Hesco baskets will give much of the city’s flood-prone areas an extra two feet of protection, increasing the protection to 24 feet, or four feet above what had been the city’s record flood until last year. In June 2008, the river reached 31.12 feet.

The plan is to deploy the tiger dams in the Time Check Neighborhood in northwest Cedar Rapids and the Hesco baskets on both sides of the river through the downtown and at Czech Village.

The city has amassed 200 truckloads of sand at the former Sinclair meatpacking site in southeast of the downtown for use in the Hesco baskets, Hanson said.

He added that the city has 49 pumps at the ready, seven more than at the time of the June 2008 flood.

The city’s updated flood-action plan calls for city crews to mobilize the new temporary flood protection systems when the forecast calls for the Cedar River to reach 20 feet at the gauge in the river above the Eighth Avenue bridge.

The temporary system cost a couple million dollars and may never be used by the time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers builds a new permanent flood-protection system here. That could take eight to 15 years.

Up north, it took Grand Forks 11 years to get a new flood-protection system in place, a system that is expected to nicely protect Grand Forks from water that is now rising on the Red River. Across the river from Grand Forks is East Grand Forks, Minn., where city officials on Friday were putting a system of removable flood walls in place.

The current flood-protection plan for Cedar Rapids calls for removable flood walls to protect both sides of the Cedar River in downtown Cedar Rapids and at Czech Village.

In truth, it didn’t take the Red River in North Dakota to focus the attention of Cedar Rapids city officials. Just a couple weeks ago, the Cedar River reached 10 feet, the level at which the river first starts minor flooding here on a couple streets.

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