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WATCH NOW: Waterloo raising Virden Creek levee
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WATCH NOW: Waterloo raising Virden Creek levee

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WATERLOO — A major construction effort will keep hundreds of east Waterloo homes and businesses out of the flood plain.

Tricon General Construction Inc. of Dubuque is making headway on a $3.8 million project raise the Virden Creek levee by three feet from Gates Park to U.S. Highway 63.

The project has turned the quiet neighborhood around the former St. Mary’s Church and School into a bustling construction zone. But it’s a vital move to ensure the area is viable into the future.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials has threatened since 2010 to remove the levee from the flood maps because it lacked a three-foot “freeboard.”

Decertifying the levee would place homes across the city’s northeast side into a flood plain. Most of those property owners would then be forced to pay for expensive flood insurance to get or keep a mortgage.

The bulk of the work is expected to wrap up before winter.

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“It’s going pretty smooth,” said Associate City Engineer Wayne Castle. “The contractors are really good at what they’re doing.

“We’re a few weeks behind because of weather, but we should still get substantial completion this year,” he added. “There may be some seeding and a few other areas that carry over into next year.”

The original Virden Creek levee was built in the early 1970s through an existing neighborhood after major flooding a decade earlier damaged homes.

There are additional flood control measures upstream and north of Waterloo, and the creek goes into an underground tunnel at U.S. 63 before emptying into the Cedar River near the Waterloo Boat House.

Tricon General Construction is digging into the existing levee five to 10 feet to put in footings and then pour the concrete flood wall in place.

The project also required razing the former rectory at St. Mary’s Church, because the long vacant and dilapidated building encroached on the needed levee system.

The finished channel will be entirely concrete, eliminating the previous condition where crews had to mow the inside portions of the levees.

Despite the industrial nature of the work, Castle said he believes the city and contractor “have had really good relationships with the neighbors” as the project progresses.

WATCH NOW: Courier rescue videos

From the Courier archives: Videos of emergency workers and good Samaritans pulling off dramatic rescues in the Cedar Valley.

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Raw footage of firefighters rescuing a driver from an overturned truck following a collision on Highway 218 south of Washburn, Iowa. April 1, 2014.

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