The University of Iowa’s $7.5 million multi-year Iowa Memorial Union flood mitigation and recovery project is on hold after crews last week made some significant archeological finds under nearby Hubbard Park.
As part of the recovery project following the 2008 floods, workers connecting chilled-water lines across Madison Street near the UI’s student union discovered evidence of something “man made” underground, said UI director of planning and construction Rod Lehnertz.
State archeologists, who originally assessed work on the site as “low risk,” were called in and found evidence of foundation materials predating the Civil War and a projectile point – or arrowhead – dating back to 3,000 B.C., Lehnertz said.
The finds, discovered just four feet deep on the relatively undisturbed ground, are viewed as historically significant to the state, Lehnertz said. Archeologists are continuing to explore the site, setting up heated tents in Hubbard Park to allow for continued excavation.
Lehnertz said the larger flood mitigation project hinges on crews’ ability to connect the chilled-water lines, prompting archeologists to continue assessing the site even in the frigid temperatures.
Depending on what archeologists find, he said, “This changes the history of our campus and our community,” he said.
Still, Lehnertz said, the goal is to continue with the union flood work as soon as excavation in the construction path is complete – possibly in two to three weeks.
“Although it depends on the finds and the weather,” Lehnertz said.
And, he said, even after crews are allowed to continue working on the flood mitigation and recovery project, archeologists likely will continue exploring the area in and around Hubbard Park.
“We want to minimize the time disruption,” he said.
The union project aims to recover its ground floor and provide protection from future flooding. Work is taking place both inside and outside the building, but the student union is staying open for the project’s duration.
The goal was to have all the work complete by June 2015, but Lehnertz said last week’s discovery – and the resulting excavation work – could delay the project.
“We need to do this to move on,” he said. “Everything is waiting.”