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Coralville's $64M Invested in Flood Mitigation Pays Off

CORALVILLE, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- Tractors dump dirt and plow it down on top of the railroad track levee behind the Coralville Vine.

From the roof of the restaurant, you can see just how close the water could be. General Manager Dan Wilkerson remembers -- from 2008 -- how bad it was.

"Everything in here is floating around, your ketchup, mustard, all the stuff that was left in. Just the scope of the whole thing and what you have to do to get open again," Wilkerson said.

But of the flood of '08 made way for improvements in the city of Coralville.

"We learned after '08 that it was important to get consulting firms to help us figure out what we need to do right away," said city engineer Dan Holderness.

Those consultants helped the city strategize, and apply for a series of federal and state grants. They were awarded $64 million to make permanent fixes, and have been working on the projects ever since.

Coralville built 10 pump stations and a number of removable walls and dirt berms south of I-80 to the Marriot, and from the Iowa River Power restaurant parking lot along Clear Creek and Biscuit Creek to Crandic Park in Iowa City.

Those permanent changes actually helped to prevent flooding this year in the very places they were designed to protect, like the Iowa River Power restaurant.

And even though this year's flood was much smaller than expected, those pumps and walls can withstand a flood that would be a full foot higher than 2008's.

"This has been a good learning experience for us to kind of make sure everything we put in place worked, and we've been very happy that it has worked very successfully," said Holderness.

And the city has been hard at work. The Vine's backyard has been a flurry of activity, Wilkerson said, and he's happy to see it happening.

"I really feel pretty positive about what they've done, and feel like we're okay," Wilkerson said.

Coralville still has three unfunded projects it would like to complete, and Holderness is hoping to have all of the city's flood mitigation projects wrapped up by 2014.
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