During this spring’s record-breaking flooding, a group called the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative is promoting solutions to deal with the increased frequency and severity of floods.
Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch says he supports the city’s long-standing tradition to not build a floodwall that would protect the downtown from encroaching floodwaters.
“We don’t want to create more problems downriver as well,” Klipsch says. “An ongoing floodwall that literally pushes everything further downstream, we know of a couple of communities south of us that literally would be washed away.”
A few downtown Davenport streets get swamped most springs, but this year saw high water topping the previous record set in 1993. Also, a HESCO barrier failed, flooding several more blocks and businesses.
Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher says members of the MRCTI are calling on Congress to take action on their proposals to help prepare for, and respond to, repeated floods.
“If we could reduce the amount of water going downstream, at the speed at which it is now traveling, through wetlands restoration and maybe creation of newer wetlands, and then a lock and dam system that takes that into consideration, we can win up and down the river as one ecology,” Gallagher says. “That’s the mission of MRCTI.”
Gallagher says the mayors’ initiative has already had success persuading Congress to adopt some of its policies, including shifting the priorities of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“We have moved the allocation for certain projects, including those from the Corps from $22-million to 146-million a year. We are making progress,” Gallagher says. “Another avenue is to remember that this is an interstate system. We got it named as such as a result of the efforts of the MRCTI. It can fall into the transportation infrastructure project. That’s another source of income.”
Gallagher says a revolving loan fund would allow states and cities to do flood mitigation projects, then repay the federal loan with savings from the improvements. The Mississippi River mayors want 100-million dollars for the fund to start with.
“We need to look at the Mississippi as one living, breathing, working river so that what they’re doing in Minnesota doesn’t adversely affect us in Iowa, and us adversely affect Illinois or Missouri.”
Many Mississippi River cities and towns are dealing with their second or third major crest of the year and several levees and temporary floodwalls have failed, most recently in Burlington.