Editorial: New dam makes impact
Op-Ed · January 18, 2013

The vast size of the grade stabilization structure on the Curtis Friis farm, and its ability to hold back 14.5 million gallons of rain, makes for an impressive project which will have a significant impact on flooding in the City of West Branch.

We have strong reservations against using the words “control” and “weather” in the same sentence. Mother Nature shows us time and time again, from Hurricane Katrina to Winter Storm Draco, that even with advanced warning and preparation, we cannot fully anticipate the power and invasive abilities of natural heat, cold, water, wind, snow and ice. Weather can kill us.

But when education can wipe away ignorance and humility can tamp down hubris, there are times when we can accomplish something like this land-based dam north and west of the city. The Cedar County Soil and Water Conservation District used I-Jobs funding and cooperated with the Friis family, the City of West Branch and the Hoover Assoc. to move dirt and bury piping and dig trenches to slow the downhill roll of 311 acres of rain heading for our community.

There are 22,340 cubic yards of dirt designed to hold back as much as 26 inches of rain in six hours. That’s what is called a “high hazard dam.”

That makes a significant difference in how water flows down the Hoover Creek Watershed to our city.

But SWCD Coordinator Judy Hagan only calls this “a start.” And City Administrator Matt Muckler points out that another five or six of these dams would be needed to keep the city from getting “slammed” by flooding in heavy rain.

The Friis project cost about $120,000, with I-Jobs picking up the most, about $94,000, and the city and Hoover Assoc. picking up about $13,000 each.

For the businesses and homes that don’t get flooded, that money may seem well worth the expense.

However doing another five or six will take more time, and more money. Funding for I-Jobs, a program under Gov. Chet Culver, has run out. Still, Gov. Terry Branstad is also interested in watershed management, and other funding may become available.

We commend these partners for their work and sacrifice for the grade stabilization structure — as well as 17 other smaller projects that help slow water rolling down our plentiful hills. Their foresight and example should help community leaders now and in the future plan similar projects.

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