Flood Resilience Program
Many Iowans know what it means to be personally resilient.
They also know what it means to lack resilience.
Iowa communities help decide who is flood resilient.
What is Flood Resilience?
Community flood resilience is the ability of people living in a common watershed to plan and act collectively, using local capacities to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from a flood.
Flood resilient communities understand that actions can reduce flood risk through mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
Flood resilient communities also know how to use local and regional resources that make collective action successful.
Several resources of resilience have traditionally been the focus of reducing impact in watersheds, and while these resources remain significant, social resources are often absent or minimally evident.
The IWA flood resilience programming will improve the use of social resources in watersheds through connecting local partners and stakeholders, enhancing the presence of social resources in watershed planning efforts, and increasing the awareness and communication of established and novel flood resilience initiatives.
IWA Flood Resilience Program Goals and Products
The IWA Flood Resilience Program focuses on the nine IWA watersheds: Clear Creek, English River, Upper Iowa River, Middle Cedar River, Upper Wapsipinicon River, Dubuque/Bee Branch Creek, North Raccoon River, and East and West Nishnabotna Rivers. The goals of the Flood Resilience Program are to:
- Measure, visualize, and communicate flood resilience resources
- Enhance flood resilience content in formal watershed plans
- Improve social resources of flood resilience
The IWA Flood Resilience Program provides value to Iowa watershed communities through establishing partnerships and developing tools that improve the visualization of flood resilience benefiting future mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery actions. Together, we can make our watershed communities more flood resilient.
The Flood Resilience Action Plan: Guidebook for Planners
This guidebook is in part an effort from the Iowa Watershed Approach which funded several Flood Resilience Action Plans (FRAPs) across different watershed communities in Iowa. As the IWA Flood Resilience Team (FRT) worked with local planning organizations to develop FRAPs, it became apparent this was new territory for most planners. The FRT contracted with an experienced and knowledgeable planning consultant, Astig Planning LLC, to develop a guidebook for planners on how to develop FRAPs. The FRAP, being an end product, aims to identify community resilience opportunities in the near future; however, you must also place emphasis on the planning process itself as an opportunity to build community resilience.
The guidebook highlights 9 steps where planners can incorporate capacity building through planning in order to build community resilience and respond to community needs during disasters. In this guidebook you will find highlights, potential barriers and possible solutions to key areas around community resilience planning.
Community Flood Resilience Action Plans
As the Flood Resilience program has developed, our team has collaborated with local planning organizations within the IWA watersheds to develop community-wide flood resilience action plans (FRAP). The main objective of the FRAP is to enhance community resilience to frequent flood hazards. Further information about these efforts are below organized by individual watersheds. Please follow the IWA website calendar and IWA Facebook page for event notifications.
Upper Iowa Watershed (Freeport) –
- In August 2016, Freeport an unincorporated community adjacent to the city of Decorah suffered devasting floods. The community experienced eight to fourteen inches of rain within 24 hours. The physical, fiscal, personal, environmental, and social challenges of this flood were felt by most members of the community and still impact the lives of many to this day. The Iowa Watershed Approach Flood Resilience team contracted with professors and students from Luther College Center for Sustainable Communities whom spent two summers (2017, 2018) collaborating and interviewing community members and professionals about their experiences in the 2016 flood. Recommendations were made and then presented at an open house community event in Freeport and Winneshiek County.
- View the Luther College Center for Sustainable Communities: Community Flood Resilience Website
- Download the Freeport Community Flood Resilience Report
Middle Cedar Watershed (Vinton)
- Iowa’s small community of Vinton (population 5,093) is located in Benton County and is within the HUC-8 Middle Cedar River Watershed. Vinton has a history of repetitive flooding that has created economic and social hardship. The flood events Vinton experienced in 2008 and 2016 were both part of major presidential disaster declarations. Vinton was selected to be included in the Iowa Watershed Approach’s Flood Resilience Program. The flood resilience program team collaborated with Iowa Valley Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) to conduct community engagement, and facilitate public conversations. This effort was executed between October 2018 to June 2020.
- View the Flood Resilient Vinton website
- Download the Vinton Flood Resilience Action Plan
Upper Wapsipinicon Watershed (Quasqueton)
- The Northeast Iowa RC&D (NEIARCD) serves as the watershed planner and project coordinator for the Upper Wapsipinicon WMA. During the watershed planning process, it was determined that the community of Quasqueton would benefit from additional localized stormwater planning. The FRT further contracted with the NEIARCD to complete a community flood resilience action plan (FRAP) for Quasqueton. This plan will engage community leaders and residents to build capacity for flood resilience. This included small group meetings, community tours, direct mailings, and other outreach and communication developments. The FRAP will serve as a guide for the community, identify goals, strategies, tools, partners, and financial resources to build flood resiliency. This report will be a great example to other small communities across Iowa on successes and challenges to engaging a small community around water resource challenges.
- Download the Quasqueton Flood Resilience Action Plan
Clear Creek Watershed (Coralville)
- In the fall of 2019 the IWA FRT contracted with Astig Planning, LLC and their co-collaborators at the Coralville Food Pantry, Impact 7G, and the Global Food Project of Iowa City to develop a community flood resilience action plan (FRAP) for the community of Coralville. This partner collaboration will result with a community led FRAP that connects and empowers residents that have been disproportionally and negatively impacted by floods. The FRAP will include stories, experiences and vision of those most vulnerable to flood impacts. The approach is a four-phase approach of exploration, outreach and education, identifying strategies and delivering a final plan. Much of these phases include elements from the ISET Climate Resilience Framework.
- View the Flood Resilient Coralville Website
- Download the Flood Resilience Action Plan in Coralville
English River Watershed (Iowa County)
- The English River Watershed Management Authority (ERWMA), Iowa County, and the City of Kalona have been working to plan, design, and oversee the construction of approximately $4M of flood mitigation projects in Iowa and Poweshiek Counties in conjunction with IWA. All of the funds for this HUD grant have been allocated to projects. Nevertheless, demand exists from private property owners and local governmental entities for additional projects such as farm ponds, water and sediment control basins, grassed waterways, and wetlands. In the fall of 2020, French-Reneker Associates prepared a more detailed engineering analysis to evaluate potential solutions to frequent flood events that overtop Iowa County Secondary Roads. This analysis led to a FEMA Building Resilient Infrastructure Communities application led by the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management and was submitted to FEMA in January 2021. In July 2021, notice was given this proposal was not selected for funding, however, this is the first attempt in Iowa at these funds with a unique watershed approach of investing upstream to benefit downstream infrastructure. Alternative funding options are being reviewed fur the future.
- Download the French-Reneker Associates Hydrology and Hydraulic Study of Proposed Flood Mitigation Sites
- Download the English River watershed FEMA BRIC proposal
North Raccoon Watershed (City of Gowrie)
- The City of Gowrie was chosen for a flood resilience action plan (FRAP) screening after Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management staff and a watershed planning consultant highlighted the occurrence of repetitive flood losses. One commercial building and 12 residential structures were subsequently identified as being in the 500-year flood plain. Additional screening with the IWA Information System (HUC12: 071000061201) suggested only two structures would be impacted by a 500-year flood. Further investigation revealed that Tank Pond Creek may be a significant choke point for surface water flow and discharged stormwater to exit the city to the southwest. The FRAP screening process suggested that localized stormwater conveyance issues may be the leading cause of the reported flood loss damages. Nonetheless, the FRAP screening process was extended to include the possibility of adding modest stormwater detention structures (e.g., flood control wetlands) northeast of Gowrie, potentially in the Lindquist Wildlife Sanctuary and/or marginally productive farmland areas.
- Download the City of Gowrie FRAP
East and West Nishnabotna Watershed (Riverton Road)
- Frequent and potentially major flooding is a significant hazard in the confluence area of the East and West Nishnabotna Rivers, particularly on County Road J-46 (Riverton Road). Riverton Road crosses both rivers just to the west of the City of Riverton and is known to overtop during conditions as frequent as the two-year flooding event, based on analysis completed by Iowa Flood Center (IFC). Flooding on Riverton Road can be dangerous for drivers and threaten the safety of surrounding areas by blocking the passage of emergency vehicles and increasing their response time. Additionally, the 23-mile detour that is necessary when the road is closed presents a major inconvenience to commerce and commuters in
the area. Road closures and overtopping have occurred frequently in recent years, flooding damages have occurred and have ranged from cleaning debris and sediment from the roadway to physical damages to the roadway, embankment, and nearby levee infrastructure.
- A 2019 confluence case study, prepared as part of the East and West Nishnabotna River Watershed Management and Flood Resiliency Plan looked at mitigation options for the 100-year flooding event (JEO Consulting Group, 2019). These were found to be cost prohibitive and the case study recommended further analysis utilizing differing flood recurrence intervals and alternatives with a focus on maximizing feasibility and potentially the benefit-cost ratio (BCR). This report details the results of further study of the Riverton Road area, including conceptual level engineering design and a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) of alternatives.
- Download the Riverton Road Flood Risk Reduction Study Report
- Appendix A – IFC Modeling Report
- Appendix B – Cost Opinions
- Appendix C – FEMA BCA Toolkit