WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Burlington Finalizes Flood Protection Application

Dec 17, 2014

Burlington's plan to hold back the mighty Mississippi River moves forward.

Burlington hopes a large flood wall will prevent the need for these temporary barricades in the future.
Credit Jason Parrott / Tri States Public Radio

The city council has authorized City Manager Jim Ferneau to apply for $31-million to build a large flood wall.

"The main area we want to protect is the Port (of Burlington), the (Memorial) Auditorium, and the lift station just south of the auditorium," said Ferneau.  "We want to make sure we can get the depot protected as well."

Major flooding in downtown Burlington is considered any crest over 18'.  The ten highest crests in the city's history have exceeded that level by more than two feet.

The severe flooding is also occurring more frequently as the National Weather Service states that eight of those ten crests have occurred in the last quarter century.

  • 23.65 feet - July 6, 2014 (preliminary)
  • 22.26 feet - April 22, 2013 (preliminary)
  • 20.24 feet - April 24, 2011
  • 25.73 feet - June 17, 2008
  • 21.18 feet - May 2, 2008
  • 21.82 feet - May 14, 2001
  • 25.10 feet - July 10, 1993
  • 20.40 feet - April 25, 1993
  • 21.50 feet - April 25, 1973
  • 21.00 feet - April 30, 1965

Ferneau said Burlington's plan is nothing new for communities living along the river.

"It's pretty comparable to the kind of expenditures we are seeing in other communities doing similar work," said Ferneau.  "The majority of those costs don't have to do with the wall itself, but getting foundations under it that will support the wall, but will also cut off, during a flood event, the water that seeps through the ground underneath."

The state grant requires a $31-million local match.  Ferneau said the city will be credited for the millions it has spent on past sewer work or it will spend on future projects.

He said it could be a few months before the city learns about the grant.

"I feel we have a pretty good shot at it," said Ferneau.  "This is a set of funds the state legislature set aside for communities on a statewide basis to be able to access for flood efforts.  We are the only project currently in the pipeline."