City short $16 million for flood recovery

by Gigi Wood

CORALVILLE – Coralville is missing a crucial piece of protection in its flood-recovery efforts.

Although more than $27 million is being spent to protect businesses along the Iowa River and First Avenue, there is a gap in mitigation.

After being turned down for funding for a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, Coralville leaders said last week they are unsure how they will pay for the project.

Among Coralville’s $54 million in flood-mitigation projects is $16 million to protect the Biscuit and Clear Creeks, as well as the Iowa River, in the area east of Sixth Avenue and south of Sixth Street, from future flooding. The project area is bound by the Iowa River and Hawkins Drive on the east, the Iowa Interstate Railroad and Hawkeye Court Apartments on the south, the intersection of Highway 6 and Second Street and Sixth Avenue on the west and the intersection of Sixth Street and First Avenue on the north.

At the Coralville City Council’s June 22 work session, City Administrator Kelly Hayworth expressed concern about a lack of funding for the project.

“Worst case scenario is we would have all these other projects done and we would still have flooding issues along Clear Creek because it’s going to back up,” he said. “I think anybody that looks at that old Movies (Gallery) building next to Monica’s, they’re going to wonder what is the protection. It could happen again.”

Proposed improvements include raising weir walls and adding backflow prevention in storm water pump stations at Jiffy Lube, Taco Bell and the Iowa Lodge. The work also includes improving a stormwater pump at McGurk Meyers, adding berms, gates and floodwalls and adding three new stormwater pump stations, at Movie Gallery and the east bank of Biscuit Creek.

The project is designed to protect the Third Avenue sanitary sewer lift station, utility infrastructure and the central business district.

“We’re spinning our wheels on the last $16 million of projects that we need to do,” he said. “So we’re trying to figure out how to break up the projects and do something smaller.”

If the city cannot secure a large part of the funding, it will concentrate on smaller parts of the project.

“We’re not going to get the $16 million, but we could do, for example, Randy Ward’s area (Randy’s Carpets and surrounding buildings) that whole area, because that’s a distinct project,” Mr. Hayworth.
Tina Potthoff, spokeswoman for the Rebuild Iowa Office, said there is some funding earmarked for Iowa that is tied up in Congress. Coralville does have other options, she said. For one, the city can apply for the new $30 million in I-JOBS funding for disaster prevention projects, which Coralville councilors discussed applying for last week.

Coralville could also qualify for additional CDBG funds that the state is requesting in a $311 million supplemental appropriation, she said. The funding is only for states impacted in 2008 disasters.

“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has not made any decisions on how this money will be divided among the impacted states, but Iowa is hopeful to receive a significant chunk of this funding,” she said. “We know there is a gap between what the disaster damage did and the funding that has gone out. We had an $8 billion to $10 billion disaster and were only able to secure, we’ve secured about $4 billion in funding.”