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Flood Clean-Up Continues in Downtown Burlington After June Breach

Aug 30, 2019

Burlington's multi-million dollar permanent flood wall is still a few years from completion, so at times the city must rely on temporary barriers to hold back the Mississippi River. The failure of those barriers on June 1 allowed the river to overwhelm portions of the downtown, resulting in months of clean-up.

Assistant City Manager/Public Works Director Nick MacGregor said if he had to estimate, he would put the overall clean-up of downtown Burlington at about 70%. He said as soon as the floodwater receded, the focus was on debris removal.

Inside the entrance to Memorial Auditorium
Credit Jason Parrott / TSPR

MacGregor said once that was complete, the city shifted its focus to the buildings that bore the brunt of the river’s force. He said some buildings required less work, including the depot and the Port of Burlington.

“The Port’s all but done,” MacGregor told Tri States Public Radio. “There is a little bit of flooring work that needs to be done and then the Welcome Center has some things that need to be done. So I would say it is about 85%-90% complete. The air conditioning and the heating is all fine.”

The same cannot be said for Memorial Auditorium, which is on the other end of the recovery spectrum. The city offered Kim Reynolds a tour of the auditorium during her recent stop in the city to see the clean-up first-hand.

Throughout the building, portions of drywall were cut away due to water damage. Electrical wiring had also been removed as had damaged flooring. Flood water also ended up in the elevator shaft, so it had to be professionally cleaned.

MacGregor said while a lot of work had already been done at the Auditorium, there was still a lot of work to do. He said a new boiler system must be installed and walls and floors must be repaired.

Inside an office in Memorial Auditorium
Credit Jason Parrott / TSPR

MacGregor said a new retaining wall must be built at the city's downtown sewer station, which he said also sustained siginficant damage during the flood. He said the station handles a majority of the city's wastewater on a daily basis.

When asked for a total cost estimate for Burlington's flood damage, MacGregor said it would be at least $1 million -- if not much more. FEMA is expected to reimburse the city for much, if not all of that figure, along with overtime costs for city staff hours spent on flood protection and clean-up.