High Mississippi River in Dubuque not sinking cruise business - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

High Mississippi River in Dubuque not sinking cruise business

DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- A river level at about 20 feet means some temporary changes for Dubuque River Rides.

As part of flood response, the city closed Dubuque's Ice Harbor.

"The Ice Harbor gates were closed to protect the river from flooding," street and sewer maintenance supervisor John Klostermann said. "But when we do that, the Ice Harbor actually becomes a retention basin, so we run the pumps in order to draw that basin down so we have more capacity during rain events."

Because of this, Dubuque River Rides owner and boat captain Walt Webster is now docking one of his two cruise boats -- the Spirit of Dubuque -- at the pavilion along the river walk. His other boat, Miss Dubuque, cannot physically dock at the pavilion and therefore can't cruise until the water level recedes and the gates open back up.

"We plan for it," Webster said. "We don't like to have to do it because it inconveniences us and it inconveniences the passengers, but it's just a normal part of the business."

He said he does want to make clear, however, that he is still up and running, despite the flood.

"We get lots and lots of calls from people that say, 'The water is high. Is it flooding? Are you sure you're going out?' We say, 'Yeah. Boats float,'" Webster said. The only time the business isn't operational, he said, is when the Coast Guard closes the river during extreme situations, which is not the case here.

The city has been busy dealing with the rising water, too.

"Our actual flood plan and action steps started a week ago Friday, well before the river was at flood stage at 17 feet," Klostermann said.

As of 4:30 p.m. Sunday, the Mississippi River at Dubuque's railroad bridge was at 20.15 feet with an expected crest of 20.3 feet by 1 a.m. Monday.

"Once it gets over 20, it gets everyone's attention," Klostermann said.

Sunday afternoon, the pavilion along the river walk was filled with people observing the inordinately high Mississippi River - especially for this time of year.

"This is the highest situation for this time of year, not the highest situation we've been in," Webster said.

Dubuque's record flood was in 1965 at 26.81 feet.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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