Members of a newly formed Regional Flood Risk Management Team met for the first time Thursday in Cedar Rapids. The group includes officials from Iowa, four other states and several federal agencies. National Weather Service Hydrologist Maren Stoflet says a slow snow melt prevented catastrophic damage earlier this spring, but the soil is still saturated. So, the flood risk in all upper Midwestern states remains much higher than normal.
“Any heavy rainfall that we get and repeated rounds of heavy rainfall would increase that flood risk,” Stoflet said. Federal agencies involved in flood response learned some lessons from what happened to Cedar Rapids in June of 2008. For one, the loss of river gauges prevented an accurate crest prediction. That problem’s since been fixed, but sharing lessons like that is one reason to create a regional group of upper Midwest states. Beth Freeman with FEMA says different states might have different flooding issues, but they also have a lot in common.
“How does Wisconsin respond to a flood compared to Iowa? But more importantly, when there’s a flood, it just doesn’t flood in one little spot,” Freeman said. Cedar Rapids Flood Recovery Director Greg Eyerly used the regional meeting to make another pitch. Current Army Corps of Engineers rules say some areas along the Cedar River aren’t worth enough to protect with permanent flood walls or levees. The rule basically states one dollar of cost must protect at least a dollar’s worth of property. Eyerly said rules like that can be misguided and discriminatory.
“If this same flood impact had occurred in another part of the country with higher real estate values, then it would be more favorable for them,” Eyerly said. “What I’m saying is we need social equality.” Eyerly made his comments to a crowd that included some top ranking Army Corps of Engineers officers. But he says any policy changes will have to come from Congress.
By Dave Franzman, KCRG-TV, Cedar Rapids