Davenport Ponders Permanent Flood Wall

Davenport, Iowa, largest of the Quad Cities, received unwanted national attention when a temporary flood barrier failed April 30. The floods inundated several square blocks in Davenport’s downtown and caused an estimated $30 million worth of damage. Videos of the flooded streets went viral on social media.

The city has long resisted building a permanent flood wall, like all its neighbors, because it valued its downtown’s connection to the Mississippi River waterfront. It relies instead on designated overflow areas and temporary flood barriers to cope with times of high water.

A July 10 Corps of Engineers report on the failure attributed the failure of the temporary Hesco barrier to friction that led to slippage: “The combination of the flood stage at the time of failure; under-seepage throughout the duration of the flood fight; and precipitation the day of the failure, leaving the barrier foundation wet, were all factors that played into the failure scenario.”

According to recent news reports, city officials might be rethinking their reluctance to build a flood wall.  Seven of the 15 biggest floods in Davenport’s history have happened since 2008, and the downtown has enjoyed $500 million worth of investment in recent years.  Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch has created a task force to review options. He told news organizations that options besides a flood wall include improving the Hesco barriers and setting aside more land to act as an absorbing sponge during floods. Nahant Marsh, a 305-acre wetland in southwest Davenport, already serves that purpose.

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