Davenport’s flooding task force on Tuesday night inched toward recommending a request for proposal aimed at changing the city’s flood protection plan.
The group will hold at least one more work session in the coming weeks before offering their goals for protecting the stretch of riverfront often touted as the city's most valuable asset. The city council should have it to consider by early to mid-September.
Over the years, conversations within the Mississippi River community about flood protection have ebbed and flowed. But in the wake of the Flood of 2019, the issue has become a top concern among many residents and city leaders.
On April 30, part of the city’s temporary flood barrier failed in what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers thinks was a slip caused by a lack of friction between the road and the bottom of the barrier. Parts of lower downtown were submerged, people were forced to evacuate — though no one was hurt — and several businesses had to close their doors for weeks. Other businesses remain closed or relocated.
The task force, established by Mayor Frank Klipsch through an executive order, is made up of 22 members, ranging from business owners to climate scientists to engineering experts. The meeting on Tuesday was the third in what was initially plotted out as a three-meeting series.
Previous meetings have featured lengthy presentations about climate change, the city’s current flood plan and concerns about the Water Pollution Control plant.
On Wednesday, representatives with Nahant Marsh — a 305-acre wetland preserve in southwest Davenport — discussed potential flood mitigation solutions that could come from further expanding area wetlands. Officials from the Iowa and Illinois departments of natural resources suggested creating local regulatory initiatives that could minimize the impact of big floods, such as tighter restrictions on land use.
And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discussed possible federal grant funding opportunities the city could pursue.
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As the evening was winding down, some task force members worried if they would have a chance to provide more input before the task force is dissolved. By the end, the group agreed to hold another work session to provide time for open discussion, which has been minimal.
Klipsch said “there is a complex amount of challenges” still being sorted out “and we are committed to moving this forward.” He added the final plan he and others envision is more than a flooding protection initiative, and offers room for additional riverfront development.
Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Rumler, one of the task force members, said he witnessed progress being made.
He’d previously raised concerns the task force was simply “meeting to meet.” Though his concerns are not fully alleviated, he said, Rumler thinks the task force is beginning to make strides toward a grander solution that — all told — could take years to put in place.
“We’re moving the ball forward,” Rumler said.
As officials continue to develop the long-term vision, some tweaks have already been made to address more immediate concerns about flooding.
For example, the city will build a bigger, heavier flood wall when forecasts show major Mississippi River rises on the horizon. And last month, aldermen approved goal changes for the hazard mitigation plan — including additional protection for the Water Pollution Control Plant and demolishing buildings in the floodplain — as they seek up to $1.8 million in Iowa disaster relief funding.