WATERLOO, Iowa --- The flood of 2008 taught the city a lesson about its levee system.
The same walls and gates so adept at keeping the Cedar River from invading the community also prevented water from streams and rainfall from escaping.
City Council members recently took a major step in correcting the shortcoming, approving design contracts for eight new pump stations designed to prevent water from pooling behind the flood gates and submerging homes and businesses that were assumed to be safe from disaster.
The estimated $17 million project is expected to be funded entirely with a $10 million federal Community Development Block Grant and $7 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded on the heels of the 2008 disaster.
"I just think it's of critical importance to have those installed," said Councilman Bob Greenwood. "That was the failure of the '08 flood."
When flood gates closed on Blowers Creek and small pumps couldn't keep up, the water backed up in the neighborhood around Lafayette Park and the former Rath Packing Co. Dry Run Creek on the west side backed up into the downtown area.
"With our new investment in that (Rath) area with the (Northeast Iowa) Food Bank, the Department of Corrections and Operation Threshold --- and the potential redevelopment of the Rath Administration Building and Crystal (Distribution) over there --- I just think it's critical that we get that water over the dike," Greenwood said.
Three engineering firms were hired to design and handle construction engineering on the project.
AECOM Inc., of Waterloo will be paid up to $920,000 for design on the new pump stations at Blowers Creek, on the east banks of the Cedar River near Evansdale, and Dry Run Creek, which enters the west side of the Cedar near Sixth Street.
Associate City Engineer Jamie Knutson said there is currently a pump station at Sixth Street that pushes water from downtown storm sewers over the levee, but the new one will pump Dry Run Creek, which in 2008 had backed up and filled both the Liberty and Bontrager park holding areas to the top.
Snyder and Associates Inc., of Cedar Rapids, was awarded a $1,066,200 contract to design new pump stations at Hollywood Avenue, near the dog park; Fletcher Avenue, near University Avenue; and Cedar Bend Street, near the new Lincoln Elementary School.
Finally, Stanley Consultants Inc., of Muscatine, received a $982,990 contract for design of a new pump stations at Westfield Avenue, near Duryea Street, and Vinton Street, near the old Rath plant. Stanley will also design a rehabilitation of the existing Virden Creek pump station downstream from Cedar River Exchange Park.
Design is expected to wrap up by Jan. 1 so the projects could be let for construction bids over the winter. While some of the smaller pumps could be in place by the end of 2012, the larger ones may take longer.
"The ones on Blowers and Virden (creeks), those are so big it's probably going to be spring of 2013 before they're ready to go," Knutson said. "There's also going to be big buildings associated with all of these pumps."
Two pump stations not associated with the federal grant programs are also under way now.
Story Construction Co., of Ames, was hired for $708,000 in July 2010 to rebuild the East Sixth Street storm water pump station. The project involves new pumps in the lift station and is being financed with general obligation bonds.
Last January, council members approved a $1.08 million contract with Peterson Contractors Inc., of Reinbeck, to build a storm water pump station at the National Cattle Congress fairgrounds, to pump water over the flood levee when the storm sewer outlet is closed due to high river levels. The bulk of the contract is being funded with revenue from a storm water management fee.
Knutson said the logic behind all of the pump stations is simple.
"If you get rain on the backside (of the levee) and it can't get back to the river, you either flood or you put in pump stations," he said. "We flooded in '08, now we're putting in pump stations."