How one Iowa city is planning for a rising Mississippi River


>>Sreenivasan: WE CONTINUE OUR SERIES, “FURTHER DOWN THE MISSISSIPPI,” WHERE, THIS PAST MAY, THE RIVER CRESTED IN DAVENPORT, IOWA, AT RECORD LEVELS, OVERTOPPING FLOOD WALLS AND INUNDATING PARTS OF DOWNTOWN. DAVENPORT, THE LARGEST OF THE QUAD CITIES WITH ABOUT 100,000 PEOPLE, IS NO STRANGER TO FLOODING. THE LATEST ROUND HAS RE-IGNITED THE DEBATE ABOUT HOW THIS CITY, THE LARGEST ON THE MISSISSIPPI WITHOUT A PERMANENT FLOOD WALL OR LEVEE SYSTEM, SHOULD PROTECT ITSELF FROM FUTURE RISING WATERS. NEWSHOUR WEEKEND’S CHRISTOPHER BOOKER HAS THE STORY.>>Reporter: FRONT STREET BREWERY FIRST OPENED ITS DOORS IN 1992.>>DID YOU LIKE THE “RAGING RIVER”?>>Reporter: A YEAR LATER, IT INTRODUCED ITS RAGING RIVER I.P.A., A FERMENTED REMINDER OF THE HISTORIC MIDWESTERN FLOODS OF 1993. BUT TONIGHT, THIS BEER IS BEING POURED IN RECOGNITION OF A MORE RECENT BATTLE WITH THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.>>INSIDE THE MAIN FLOOR OF THE RESTAURANT BUILDING, WE HAD ABOUT 18 INCHES TO TWO FEET OF WATER.>>Reporter: SO, IN HERE, THERE WAS TWO FEET?>>YEAH, WHERE WE’RE SITTING RIGHT NOW, THERE WAS ABOUT TWO FEET OF WATER.>>Reporter: FRONT STREET’S CO-OWNER, TIM BALDWIN, SAYS THE WATER CAME IN, IN A MATTER OF MINUTES WHEN A SECTION OF THE TEMPORARY FLOOD WALL ASSEMBLED TO HOLD BACK A SWOLLEN MISSISSIPPI RIVER SLIPPED. THE EXACT MOMENT IN LATE APRIL WAS CAPTURED ON A SECURITY CAMERA.>>WE RAN, OF COURSE, GOT SOME THINGS WE… WE DEEMED IMPORTANT. AND BY THE TIME WE WERE DONE ROUNDING ALL THAT UP, WE FOUND OURSELVES IN THE BACK OF OUR BUILDING, IN OUR PARKING LOT, STANDING IN NEARLY CROTCH-DEEP WATER.>>Reporter: IT WAS THAT FAST?>>IT WAS… IT WAS THAT FAST, YEAH.>>Reporter: BY THE TIME THE MISSISSIPPI CRESTED A FEW DAYS AFTER THE BREACH, THE RIVER IN DAVENPORT WAS 22.7 FEET, THE HIGHEST LEVEL EVER RECORDED AND MORE THAN FOUR FEETABOVEWHAT IS CONSIDERED THE LEVEL OF A MAJOR FLOOD. AND FRONT STREET BREWERY AND MORE THAN 30 OTHER BUSINESSES IN DOWNTOWN DAVENPORT WERE DIRECTLY AFFECTED. WERE YOU THINKING, “IT’S DONE”? “THE RESTAURANT’S FINISHED?”>>NO, I DIDN’T THINK THAT THE RESTAURANT WAS FINISHED BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, WE KNOW THE HISTORY OF THIS PLACE, AND WE KNOW THAT, IN 1993, THE EXACT SAME THING HAPPENED. SO, IT WAS, YOU KNOW, “OKAY, WE’LL JUST HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT TOMORROW.”>>Reporter: FLOODING HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PART OF DAVENPORT, BUT THINGS HAVE CHANGED. OF THE CITY’S 15 LARGEST FLOODS, SEVEN HAVE BEEN SINCE 2008. THE INCREASED FREQUENCY OF FLOODS, INCLUDING THIS SPRING’S BREACH, HAS RE-IGNITED A DEBATE ABOUT HOW DAVENPORT SHOULD PROTECT ITSELF FROM THE RIVER.>>THERE ARE PEOPLE IMMEDIATELY WHEN IT HAPPENED SAID, “PUT UP A WALL.”>>Reporter: FRANK KLIPSCH IS THE MAYOR OF DAVENPORT.>>WE’VE HAD A LONG-TERM POSITION IN THE COMMUNITY THAT WE WANT TO EMBRACE THE RIVER AND NOT TRY TO FIGHT IT.>>Reporter: DAVENPORT IS THE LARGEST CITY ON THE MISSISSIPPI WITHOUT A PERMANENT FLOOD WALL OR LEVEE SYSTEM. RATHER THAN BUILD A PERMANENT BARRIER, THE CITY INVESTED IN A TEMPORARY FLOODWALL BUILT FROM METAL MESH CONTAINERS FILLED WITH SAND, CALLED HESCOS. THE CITY HAS ALSO EXPANDED GREEN SPACE BY BUYING OUT LOW-LYING PROPERTIES, CREATING A BUFFER ZONE THAT IS DESIGNED TO FLOOD AND HOLD WATER AS THE RIVER RISES. MAYOR KLIPSCH SAYS IT’S A MODEL THAT HAS SERVED DAVENPORT WELL.>>WHEN YOU HAVE A RECORD FLOOD, IT CHALLENGES YOU. AND NOW, IT’S A MATTER OF TRYING TO WORK THROUGH THAT. AND HOW DO WE, IN FACT, CONTINUE TO DO A BETTER AND BETTER JOB DEALING WITH THAT TEMPORARY NATURE, BUT EMBRACING THE RIVER OVERALL.>>Reporter: IN JULY, MAYOR KLIPSCH FORMED A TASK FORCE TO STUDY HOW THE CITY SHOULD UPDATE ITS FLOOD PLAN. IT HAD REPRESENTATIVES FROM FEDERAL AGENCIES, INCLUDING THE ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS AND THE NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION, PLUS LOCAL OFFICIALS AND BUSINESS OWNERS, INCLUDING TIM BALDWIN.>>THIS IS DAVENPORT’S PROBLEM.>>Reporter: YEAH.>>THIS IS BETTENDORF’S PROBLEM. THEIR PROBLEM IS MITIGATED WITH THAT WALL.>>Reporter: DRIVING AROUND THE REGION, BALDWIN SHOWED ME WHAT SOME OF DAVENPORT’S OPTIONS MAY BE.>>YOU THINK ABOUT WHERE OUR BUSINESS IS LOCATED ON THE RIVER, THIS WOULD BE OUR VIEW.>>Reporter: THE TOWN OF BETTENDORF SITS RIGHT NEXT TO DAVENPORT. IT COMPLETED THIS PERMANENT LEVEE IN 1987. IT’S ESTIMATED THAT A SIMILAR WALL IN DAVENPORT, WHICH IS A MUCH BIGGER CITY, WOULD COST AT LEAST $175 MILLION. BUT, REGARDLESS OF THE COST, BALDWIN DOESN’T WANT TO SEE ONE IN DAVENPORT.>>I CERTAINLY WOULDN’T WANT MY CUSTOMERS TO CLIMB UP ON A LEVEE TO… TO BE ABLE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE… OF THE RIVER VIEWS. SO, SITTING BEHIND A WALL LIKE THIS JUST DOESN’T HAVE THE SAME APPEAL.>>Reporter: BUT DAVENPORT WILL HAVE TO DO SOMETHING, ESPECIALLY IF IT WANTS TO PROTECT ITS LOW-LYING DOWNTOWN. AND IT’S NOT ALONE. INCREASED FLOODING IS AN ISSUE THAT COMMUNITIES UP AND DOWN THE MISSISSIPPI ARE DEALING WITH. IS CLIMATE CHANGE CONTRIBUTING TO AN INCREASED NUMBER OF FLOODS?>>ABSOLUTELY.>>Reporter: DEFINITIVELY?>>DEFINITIVELY.>>Reporter: LARRY WEBER IS AN ENGINEERING PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA AND THE CO-FOUNDER OF THE IOWA FLOOD CENTER. IT’S AN ACADEMIC CENTER CREATED TO HELP THE STATE PREPARE AND PROTECT ITSELF FROM FLOODS.>>WE GET A LOT OF RAINFALL IN IOWA. AS CLIMATE CHANGE HAS IMPACTED OUR WEATHER IN IOWA, WE DON’T GET THE RIGHT AMOUNT AT THE RIGHT TIME AS MUCH ANYMORE. YOU KNOW, WE HAVE THIS INTENSIFICATION OF RAINFALL. YOU KNOW, IT’S THE RAINFALL EVENT WHERE WE HAD EIGHT INCHES OF RAIN, AND THEN WE GET ANOTHER SIX-INCH RAIN, AND THEN ANOTHER TEN-INCH RAIN, AND THEN NO RAIN FOR SEVERAL WEEKS OR MONTHS.>>Reporter: SO, FLOOD, DROUGHT, FLOOD, FLOOD, DROUGHT.>>YEAH, YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT.>>Reporter: HE SAYS THE INCREASE HAS BEEN NOTICEABLE FOR IOWANS OVER THE LAST QUARTER CENTURY.>>IN 1993, THE GENERAL SENSE AMONGST MANY PEOPLE THROUGHOUT THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER WAS, WE HAD JUST EXPERIENCED THE FLOOD OF A LIFETIME. YOU KNOW, WE EXPERIENCED THE “500-YEAR FLOOD.” AND SO, WE WOULDN’T EXPECT TO SEE AN EVENT LIKE THAT AGAIN.>>Reporter: LO AND BEHOLD, THOUGH, WE’VE SEEN MANY MORE 500-YEAR FLOODS.>>YEAH. IN 2008, PEOPLE WERE SURPRISED WHEN THE IOWA AND CEDAR RIVER BASINS FLOODED AGAIN AT LEVELS THAT WERE EQUAL TO OR MUCH GREATER THAN 1993.>>Reporter: IN JUNE OF 2008, IOWA EXPERIENCED THE LARGEST NATURAL DISASTER IN ITS HISTORY WHEN THE CEDAR RIVER FLOODED CEDAR RAPIDS, CAUSING AN ESTIMATED $5.4 BILLION IN DAMAGES. MORE THAN 11 YEARS LATER, THE CITY IS STILL RECOVERING AS IT IMPLEMENTS A $550 MILLION FLOOD PROTECTION PLAN. FUNDED WITH FEDERAL, STATE, CITY AND PRIVATE MONEY, THE PLAN INCLUDES LEVEES, WALLS AND ENTIRE NEIGHBORHOODS THAT WERE BOUGHT OUT AND RETURNED TO GREEN SPACE. THE COST AND TIMELINE OF CEDAR RAPIDS’ RECOVERY IS NOT LOST ON OFFICIALS IN DAVENPORT.>>IT TAKES THAT LONG TO PLAN, AND IT TAKES THAT LONG TO GET THE PROPER FUNDING IN PLACE. SO, IT’S NOT A… A QUICK PROPOSITION, UNFORTUNATELY.>>Reporter: NICOLE GLEASON IS DAVENPORT’S DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS. SHE’S RESPONSIBLE FOR IMPLEMENTING THE CITY’S FLOOD PLAN, INCLUDING THE PLACEMENT OF TEMPORARY BARRIERS. IS IT POSSIBLE TO BALANCE THESE TWO IDEAS, THE IDEA THAT YOU WANT TO HAVE AN ACCESSIBLE RIVERFRONT AND YOU ALSO WANT TO HAVE A DRY DAVENPORT?>>I THINK IT IS, BUT I THINK THAT IT’S GOING TO HAVE TO BE A BALANCE OF FIGURING OUT CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE, CRITICAL ASSETS AND MAYBE LOOKING AT PROTECTING THOSE SPECIFICALLY; AND THEN LOOKING AT OTHER WAYS TO TURN THOSE AREAS THAT ARE MORE DIFFICULT TO PROTECT OR DON’T MAKE AS MUCH SENSE AND TO PROTECT INTO MORE… MORE PARKLAND, MORE WETLANDS, THINGS LIKE THAT.>>Reporter: BUT FIGURING OUT HOW TO BALANCE PROTECTING DIFFERENT PARTS OF DAVENPORT’S NINE-MILE RIVERFRONT, AND WHO SHOULD BEAR THE COST, COULD BE A CONTENTIOUS PROCESS WITH SO MANY STAKEHOLDERS.>>YOU START THIS BATTLE BETWEEN DOWNTOWN BUSINESS OWNERS OR THOSE THAT LIVE ALONG THE RIVER, AND THE REST OF THE TAXPAYERS IN THE CITY OF DAVENPORT SAYING, “YOU’RE THE DUMMIES THAT BUILT DOWN THERE, OR OPERATE BUSINESSES DOWN THERE, OR LIVE DOWN THERE, WHY SHOULD WE PAY FOR THIS?” AND ON THE SURFACE, YOU KNOW, THAT’S PROBABLY A NATURAL REACTION, AND PROBABLY WITH SOME ACCURACY THERE. BUT, YOU KNOW, WHAT PEOPLE DON’T THINK ABOUT IS THAT THIS FLOOD MITIGATION IS A PROBLEM FOR THE ENTIRE CITY.>>Reporter: AND BALDWIN CONCEDES THAT PERMANENT FLOOD PROTECTION FOR DAVENPORT MIGHT MEAN RETREATING FROM THE RIVER.>>YOU KNOW, IF… IF THE CITY AND FEMA CAME IN AND SAID, “THIS IS WHAT WE NEED TO DO,” WE WOULDN’T HAVE HAD A LOT OF PUSHBACK.>>Reporter: IF THEY SAID, “WE NEED TO BUY YOUR BUILDINGS AND TEAR THEM DOWN”?>>TO TEAR THEM DOWN. I MEAN, CERTAINLY, WE’D WANT TO BE COMPENSATED APPROPRIATELY, BUT, NO, WE WOULDN’T HAVE PUSHED BACK ON THAT BECAUSE IT SEEMED TO BE THE RIGHT THING TO DO. THERE’S OTHER PLACES WE CAN OPERATE FROM, RIGHT?>>Reporter: BUT, FOR NOW, THIS PUB REMAINS ON THE RIVERFRONT, CELEBRATING A GRAND-REOPENING SEVEN MONTHS AFTER IT WAS FLOODED. (GAVEL BANGS)>>I WOULD LIKE TO CALL THIS SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING…>>Reporter: MEANWHILE, FRANK KLIPSCH’S TERM AS MAYOR JUST ENDED, BUT HE SAYS THAT THE CITY’S FLOOD TASK FORCE HAS IDENTIFIED SEVERAL SHORT-TERM PRIORITIES, INCLUDING COMMISSIONING A COMPREHENSIVE ENGINEERING STUDY. HAS THIS CHANGED THE WAY THAT YOU THINK ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE?>>I THINK THE REALITY OF IT IS THERE’S STILL… I HAVE FOUND THERE’S SOME PEOPLE THAT WANT NO TALK OF… OF HOW IT’S HAPPENING, BUT EVERYONE CAN UNDERSTAND THERE’S A NEW NORMAL NOW, AND WE’VE GOT TO DEAL WITH IT.>>Reporter: AND OFFICIALS NOTE THAT THIS PAST FALL WAS WETTER THAN 2018, NOT A GOOD SIGN FOR KEEPING DAVENPORT DRY THIS YEAR AS THE WINTER SNOW MELTS AND THE SPRING RAINS COME.

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