Dubuque Looks at Funding for Flood Prevention

November 18, 2013

Dubuque, Iowa, is considering whether to apply for nearly $100 million in state tax incentives for a huge flood-mitigation project that could be completed over the next two decades.

The Dubuque City Council will meet Monday to discuss funding for the Bee Branch Creek Watershed Project, the Dubuque Telegraph Herald reported. It will cost nearly $180 million over more than 20 years.

The work across an entire watershed could prevent an estimated $582 million in damages over its 100-year design life. Since 1999, businesses and homes within the watershed have experienced nearly $70 million in damage.

“Over 50 percent of the people in Dubuque live or work in the Bee Branch watershed, so it’s a pretty significant, important place for our community,” said City Manager Mike Van Milligen.

The improvements would include enhancing sewer capacity, replacing a flood-mitigation gate, and reconstructing 240 alleyways with material that allows water to filter back into the ground.

“With the damage that we’ve experienced to date, and it’s been in the millions of dollars annually that we’ve averaged because of flooding in the Bee Branch watershed, this is a must-do project,” said Assistant City Manager Teri Goodmann.

The project has been in the works for years, and originally involved a longer timeline. Van Milligen said the allocation, which would be applied in pieces, would shorten the timeline and ease residents’ utility bills.

“Our application asks for money over the entire 20 years,” he said. “Our dollars would be used to pay off debt and also do some projects, pay as you go as the expenses come up.”

If the city council agrees to the application, it would be presented to the Iowa Flood Mitigation Board. They’re trying to divvy up $600 million in funding from future state sales tax revenue.

The board could make a decision by early December, Van Milligen said.

“Instead of 50 years or more, it’s all going to be done in 20 years, with most of it being done in the next six years,” he said. “We think there’s just unbelievable benefit. A lower cost, and a more accelerated schedule, if we’re so fortunate as to get this allocation from the state.”

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