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Final Review for Davenport Flood Plans

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Ducks cruising down River Drive at Ripley Street, in May, 2019.

Davenport is preparing to put together a final, long-term flood plan, and local residents have one more chance to review the findings and make suggestions. The city has posted a video "overview" of the project so far, and then people can respond to a survey about it.

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Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch talks with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Lt. Governor Adam Gregg - May, 2019

Following the record setting flood of 2019, the city began working with consultants to figure out what it might do along its nine miles of riverfront to avoid or at least mitigate future flooding by the Mississippi River.

Assistant Public Works Director Clay Merritt says the main focus is what to do when the river reaches three feet over flood stage up to seven feet over.

"Most of the ones people felt very strongly about the initial projects that we should do is a bunch of underground storm sewer improvements that helps stop the river from backing up from the storm sewer system and having us fight the flood at a much earlier stage. They said that was the first thing we should be working on. Then once you complete all the storm sewer ones then we can decide a later date do we want it to the 22 foot or do you want it to the 24 foot, basically doing what you can to then allow you to build up further in the future."

In 2019, the Mississippi crested in the Quad Cities at 22.7 feet, or 7.7 feet over flood stage. And in the last 20 years, the river has reached at least 18 feet for 14 days, and 22 feet for 7 days. And supposedly there's one per cent chance it'll reach 24 feet in any one year.

Another key decision so far is not to build a floodwall along the whole riverfront, but to try different strategies in different parts of the city.

"The river interacts differently according to where you are. If you're on the far east end of the city, right around the East

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sandbags piled around storm sewers in downtown Davenport, May, 2019

Village, unless it's a major, major flood, rarely do you interact with it outside of it shuts off access to River Drive. And so if you're that business owner or you're a resident, you're more interested in keeping the roadways open or having detour routes that are identified and known by everyone. Whereas if you're in the downtown or the far west end of the city, you're impacted a lot earlier on and so you may have different interests so therefore the strategies we have may be different that what we may do in other portions of the city."

Merritt also says some parts of the Davenport riverfront might not change much if at all, such as LeClaire Park.

"And one of the things we get back from people most of all is the view of the river. How can we strategically put items and strategies in place that keeps us living with the river, that keeps those views, and keeps making Davenport Davenport, and not transforming the riverfront into something else."

He says public comments during the last year and-a-half have stressed having the city do the easier "fixes" first.

"Does that underground sewer work that maybe stops you from closing off an intersection at 14 feet and keeping it open until 17 or 18 feet. And that three or four feet can buy you a substantial amount of time - in some cases we get floods that don't even reach that stage, that may reach 16. But if you can keep something open until 18 then that's an intersection you don't have to close and that's just better for everyone. How can we make those incremental improvements but then also make sure we're doing it in a smart manner - that we can build higher should future councils and should the public want to do so into the future."

Merritt emphasizes comments are welcome from everyone, not just those with homes or businesses along the river in Davenport.

"Let's say you live north of Kimberly and that maybe doesn't impact you. The projects that are in here might do so indirectly from a cost perspective - these are projects we need to perform whether we do so with city funds or we find state or federal resources to help us with that. So in the end even though you may not be directly impacted we're still very interested in hearing from the public on what their input is."

Final public comments are due by September 15th, with final plans for "flood resilience" to be presented to the city council in November.