DES MOINES — A state panel unanimously approved a $6.6 million request to improve the levee in Cedar Falls.
The vote by the Iowa Flood Mitigation Board was unusual because it took place the same day Cedar Falls officials made their pitch. Typically, the board hears a pitch during one meeting and votes on it the next.
But board members said they felt comfortable enough with the Cedar Falls proposal to go ahead the same day.
The $6.6 million from the state is part of a total $13.25 levee improvement project that includes $4.8 million from the federal government and $1.7 million from the city.
The money will be used to build up the city’s levee to protect the Cedar Falls Utilities headquarters and wastewater plant.
City officials who traveled to Des Moines for the half-day meeting said if they could obtain the mitigation board money, they would free up city funding for flood-related mitigation projects, such as voluntary flood buyouts.
“I wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about this project if it didn’t have (mitigation efforts) in it,” said Board Vice Chair Amy Kaleita, noting the city has restricted building in its flood plains.
“In 2010 and 2013, we had the 12th and 14th highest floods in Cedar Falls, but they were non-events because of our efforts,” Cedar Falls Director of Development Ron Gaines told the panel.
“So what you’re saying is flood mitigation pays,” responded Board Chairman Mark Schouten.
Gaines said modeling studies conducted by city consultants show there would be no adverse effect on the neighboring downriver community of Waterloo after the levee is built.“We’re very fortunate and pleased that they voted on it today,” Gaines said, speaking just outside the meeting room shortly after the vote. “We have been working with the Homeland Security staff for quite some time in preparing our application, so we felt quite comfortable going in.”