Eastern Iowa river cities saving money on flood fighting - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Eastern Iowa river cities saving money on flood fighting

The Mississippi River was just below 10 feet and dropping Sunday afternoon. Flood stage is 17 feet. The Mississippi River was just below 10 feet and dropping Sunday afternoon. Flood stage is 17 feet.

Cities along eastern Iowa's rivers may save thousands of dollars this fiscal year due to a lack of spring flooding.

According to National Weather Service predictions, water levels throughout the Mississippi, Wapsipinicon, Cedar, Iowa, Des Moines and Rock rivers will continue to drop over the course of this week.

For anyone playing tour guide in Dubuque, the Mighty Mississippi is most certainly a must-see stop.

Sunday afternoon, Dubuque resident Jenny Dazey strolled along the River Walk with a friend of hers visiting from Florida. She was showing him big Dubuque landmarks.

"Yeah, the river, of course, is the main one," Dazey said.

The Mississippi River along which they walked, however, looks a little lean compared to this time last year.

"It was very high," Dazey said, standing beside the pavilion on the Ice Harbor side of the river walk. "It was up here, where we are standing. You couldn't be up here, so it's different, especially at this time of year."

Low river levels mean the city doesn't have to pay for flood fighting.

John Klostermann is the street and sewer maintenance supervisor for the city of Dubuque.

"Exact opposite of last year," he said in regards to the Mississippi River level. "Last year in April, we were looking at a river stage that crested around 22.8 [feet]."

Compare that to the river level Sunday afternoon, just below 10 feet at the railroad bridge in Dubuque: one point at which the National Weather Service measures the river level.

"So far this year, we have not taken any action steps as far as closing gates or anything related to flood control," Klostermann said. "Our focus along the riverfront and along the flood wall has been on maintenance."

Last year, a month of high river levels put the city more than $150,000 over its flood fighting budget.

"There's costs with labor with flood fighting, there's costs with materials that you look at. Electrical costs to run the pumps. Those things all add up," Klostermann said. "We're definitely spending less money than what we did last year."

That's even after the massive storm in late July, which used up much of the city's flood budget. A mild winter's effect on river levels, therefore, means the city will pretty much just break even.

"It's unpredictable," Dazey said, regarding the river's fluctuating levels from one year to the next. "It's fascinating to see, too, and you never know what's going to happen."

"This opportunity we've had with great weather so far this spring early this year, and actually eliminate a lot of the maintenance, the defects that we've identified over the years and been able to knock those down," Klostermann said.

He said the city usually budgets for eight to 10 days of flood fighting.

Barring any significant rain events throughout the rest of the fiscal year, Klostermann said the city is on track to find itself near the break-even point on its flood mitigation budget.

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