Iowans Urged to Take Measures to Reduce Flooding

February 4, 2010

Lawmakers and others called on Iowa residents to install rain barrels and take other measures to reduce spring flooding, which proved disastrous to a large swath of the state two years ago.

Speaking at a Statehouse news conference, legislators and others urged Iowans to take responsibility for limiting flooding.

“This issue is too urgent to wait for a legislative solution,” said Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids. “This issue is so important we need to ask all Iowans to participate.”

Although supporters spoke of a statewide need, they focused most heavily on Linn County, where flooding in spring 2008 submerged much of downtown Cedar Rapids and caused about $6 billion in damage.

Hogg and others proposed installing 1,000 new rain barrels in Linn County’s Indian Creek watershed, a move they said would have slowed the runoff of 1 million gallons of rainwater. Those barrels wouldn’t have prevented the 2008 disaster, but they could have lessened local flooding.

Supporters also suggested installing paving that allows water to seep through as well as planting rain gardens and more shrubs that soak up water.

“The 65 gallons of water sitting in a rain barrel is a lot when you’re a homeowner looking to water your garden,” said Jean Wiedenheft, of the Indian Creek Nature Center.

Wiedenheft said the goal was to begin installing rain barrels on Earth Day, April 22, and reach the 1,000 barrel target on June 13, the date that marked the worst of the 2008 flooding in Cedar Rapids.

After that flooding the Army Corps of Engineers considered installing a levee system in Cedar Rapids but decided it wasn’t cost effective. Wiedenheft said that means individuals must take responsibility.

“A watershed approach means everyone in the watershed participating, including governments, businesses and homeowners,” she said. “Because we all contribute to the flooding.”

Backers of the effort said they will sell special barrels for collecting runoff for $100.

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