On the fourth anniversary of the floods of 2008 that damaged much of the area, over 90 people, including representatives from the Iowa DNR, the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Iowa Flood Center, loaded two school buses to tour flood control structures across four Southeast Iowa counties.
They were able to see 21 structures built to reduce flood damage and save Appanoose, Monroe, Davis and Wapello counties money by not having to replace washed out roads and bridges. So far, 131 structures have been built across those four counties, with the help of the Soap Creek Watershed Board. The board consists of a county supervisor and a district commissioner representative from each county. The board was founded in 1986, with an overarching goal of reducing the total amount of floodwater and sediment damage in the area.
"It's an extremely successful project, the landowners now are seeing the benefits with heavy rains we've had in the last several years, they have definitely seen the benefits, there's less water flowing in the creeks, the dams are holding it back, releasing it slowly," said Lee White, of the Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service. "So this is a celebration of a lot of people, a lot of organizations - state and federal - local, coming together. So I see it as just that - a celebration."
The Iowa Flood Center received an $8.8 million grant from the Housing and Urban Development program to spend in four different watershed locations. Local legislators and county supervisors from the area hope our counties will receive the funding needed to build a remaining 30 structures.
"The program that we're leading is to do this detailed modeling and assessment, building project and then measure the impact or the benefit of those projects, hydrologically," said Larry White, of the Iowa Flood Center. "That will allow us to scale up to the entire state, because we know we have needs across the whole state, but a big questions that remains unanswered today is what kind of funding and what kind of projects will it really take to solve the water resources issues and flooding-related issues in the state of Iowa."
Even with much work still needing to be done, the 132 structures already built and functioning across the four counties can serve as a model for the state and the nation.
"It's a number of counties cooperating, and that's difficult at times, but they've done a great job," said Congressman Dave Loebsack. "It's a lot of bodies, governmental and non-governmental institutions of bodies cooperating. It's a great model, for the country, as far as I'm concerned, but starting in Iowa and moving forward with the rest of the country."
"It's a win-win for all of us when we can preserve the water quality, preserve the land and lessen the erosion, plus reduce the amount of money it takes to maintain county bridges and county structures and keep flooding reduced to a minimum," said State Representative Curt Hanson. "So I've learned a lot about how well these people are cooperating and how the benefits are going to benefit, not only the people living here, but our grandchildren as well, so it's a win-win."
The Watershed Plan estimates that the structures save about $208,000 a year in flood damage repairs.