Mississippi River businesses playing catch-up after flooding - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Mississippi River businesses playing catch-up after flooding

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Flooding on the Mississippi River spanning nearly three months this year has left some area businesses playing catch-up.

The river started rising in April and crested in early July. Even though the mighty Mississippi dropped quickly, businesses relying on it had already taken a hit.

Businesses based in Dubuque's Ice Harbor were particularly hurt.

The city closes the Ice Harbor gates when the Mississippi River level hits 16 feet and is forecasted to rise to at least 17 feet. This year, Dubuque officials closed the Ice Harbor gates on two occasions. The first closure happened on April 21 and lasted 38 days. The second one started June 20 and spanned 23 days

Between the two closures, boat-based businesses in the Ice Harbor were effectively cut off from the Mississippi River for 61 days, the equivalent of two months.

Captain Walt Webster has co-owned Mississippi River cruise business Dubuque River Rides for 21 years. During the Ice Harbor's first closure of the year, both of his boats were stuck inside the Ice Harbor. In the second closure, only one of his boats was operational.

"It's been a challenge," Webster said Wednesday, adding they're trying to making up for lost time and business. "It'll be significant. We lost the entire month of May and one boat for three weeks in June, so we've got a ways to go. We're going to pull it together."

Tara Moncada helped bring Webster back into the black. She bought tickets Wednesday afternoon for a cruise with her sister and mother, all of whom were in Dubuque for a vacation.

Moncada said she's glad the river has dropped, as they might not otherwise have gotten the chance to boat the Mississippi River.

"We've come all the way from Chicago and Door County, Wisconsin," Moncada said. "It's a long way to come, and we were expecting to go on the river ride, so, yeah, I'd be very disappointed."

The city-owned Port of Dubuque Marina is also in the Ice Harbor. It opened just last year, making this two seasons in a row where the flooded Mississippi River has made a dent in business.

"Not the big opening that we hoped for, no," the marina's facilities manager Ben Alden said Wednesday, "but I guess that's just the river, you know. It goes up, it goes down."

The Port of Dubuque Marina's 70 slips sat empty for those 61 days this year during the Ice Harbor's two closures. It hopes to make up some of that business with its Lighted Boat Parade on Sat., Aug. 2. The first-ever event is free and open to the public. Details are HERE: http://www.cityofdubuque.org/civicalerts.aspx?aid=2365

John Klostermann is the city's street and sewer maintenance supervisor. He said, historically, the river should not flood any more this year. It would take a lot of rain upriver to cause flooding once again along Iowa at this point.

He added Dubuque's first line of defense against Mississippi River flooding is closing the Bee Branch basin on 16th Street. He said the city closed that in mid-April and didn't re-open it until just this past Friday. He said that's a very long stretch of time to be closed and a good indicator of the vast extent of this year's flooding on the river.

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