Don’t let the nice weather fool you this week in central Iowa. The sun may be shining now, but the huge rainfalls recorded in northern Iowa last week and all weekend are heading this way in a hurry. Des Moines was not spared rainfall this week either, getting a deluge of nearly two inches Friday and more on Sunday morning. With an already saturated ground, the Army Corp of Engineers at Saylorville Resevoir are urging people in the Birdland community on the northeast side of Des Moines to begin voluntary evacuations. Residents of that area should be aware that mandatory evacuations may start at any time.
As Iowans we have learned to compare every spring to the floods of 1993. What was termed “the 100 year flood” caused the state to take immediate action on the downtown levee systems and build a massive barrier around the Water Works. The Birdland neighborhood levees were badly compromised in the ’93 Iowa floods, but only sparsely repaired compared to the work done in the downtown business district.
The levee system failed the community again in 2008 after a fix was promised. Again city leaders opted for a fix instead of the overhaul the system needs. This spring the city works department went to work digging up some of the streets again in the area to provide a better fix for the flooding. Neighbors thought the first “fix” was a long term solution. Sadly it looks like residents will have to endure another round this year. The falling rain has caused more delays on the levee restoration plans.
The Birdland area of Des Moines runs from 2nd to 6th Avenue south of Euclid Avenue. While by no means a rich neighborhood, it is one of the oldest in Des Moines and is extremely well established. Meaning that many of the families living there were born and raised in that community. It’s hard to leave your home to flood waters at all, let alone when it contains the memories of an entire generation. There is no Plan B for most of these families. Their family members live on the next block over and are also preparing for the coming flood.
As Iowa heads toward state elections, the levee system should be a top issue for the gubernatorial race. The lack of a decent levee system in the state capital has cost residents millions in damages and rebuilding costs. The costs are spread to tax payers across the country when the federal government steps in to declare these areas disasters, opening up federal funding to homeowners and businesses.
The issues with the levee systems are not limited to the Birdland area or even to Des Moines, the entire Midwest has been inundated with floods since that flood in 1993. Cities throughout Iowa and Missouri were affected and levee systems were compromised nearly across the board. Citizens need to ask how many were replaced as opposed to only having a temporary repair.
The estimated current repair costs on the Birdland levee system (barring further damage this year) is up to $11.3 million. The federal government will kick in an estimated $7 million with the city paying for the balance. The bottom line is this, it is time to look at the infrastructure of every major city in the US. The “fixes” are not working and costing more in the long run.
Council Communication of the City Manager: Agenda Item 40
(2008)KCCI News Channel 8: Levee Fails Overnight in Birdland Area
WHOTV.com – Levee Work: Construction on the Birdland levee is being delayed again because of wet weather