The University of Iowa Public Policy Center is hosting a symposium on the floods of 2008. The chair of the conference planning committee, Larry Weber, says they are discussing a variety of topics from the science of floods to the psychological impact. Weber says they want to share information learned from the recent flooding, and from the past to move ahead.
Weber says we have made progress, but the progress has been slow. He says the most recent flooding has raised public awareness, as many people thought the floods of 1993 were the "floods of a lifetime" but more record flooding came 15 years later. Weber says they hope to use the research and ideas to move toward better ways to handle the flooding in the future.
He says learning from each other is one of the main elements of the symposium and there are a couple of major initiatives underway to better understand floods. Miller says one would bring the resources in the state together more cohesively with a flood center in Des Moines. Miller says there’s also a center that would look beyond Iowa.
Miller says the University of Iowa is also planning for a national flood research center and they are planning to submit a proposal to the National Science Foundation for funding to bring national expertise together for flood research and education.
Weber is the director of the university’s Institute of Hydraulic Research . He says moving people out of the floodplain seems like one easy solution to the problem, but Miller says it’s not always that simple.
Miller says it is and isn’t that easy as land use changes cut across the entire watershed and may impact people that were not impacted by the flooding this year. He says the biggest gains could be in areas that were not affected, so you have to look at how people in the upper part of the watershed impact those in the bottom part of the watershed. Miller says many people are also surprised by the regulations put on those who have been impacted by the flooding. It is much different than other disasters such as a tornado.
Miller says in order to rebuild, FEMA requires many flooded areas to be mitigated against future floods. He says in the case of something like a tornado, people can immediately rebuild, while those in the flooded area see the rebuilding held up while work continues on the ways to prevent future flooding. The symposium will continue through Thursday.