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Current Phase of Burlington Floodwall Construction Nearly Done

David Hightower
The floodwall in downtown Burlington.

Work on a floodwall to protect downtown Burlington from rising waters on the Mississippi River began several years ago, and now the majority of the wall is almost done.


The first section of floodwall was completed in 2018. It runs along the riverfront by the Memorial Auditorium and Port of Burlington. It's a permanent concrete wall, with aluminum panels that can be installed when the river floods.


Assistant City Manager Nick MacGregor said the current phase of construction should be completed by early next month. It includes the "tie-back" sections of concrete wall that connect the floodwall along the riverfront to existing retaining walls.


Before the floodwall, the city would set up Hesco Barriers, which are large metal frames filled with sand to hold back the water. With the final sections of floodwall almost complete, MacGregor said it should make preparing for high water levels easier, and less time consuming for city staff.


"Using the Hescos to fully protect takes 3-4 days to set up, where using the aluminum panels takes only a day or so." MacGregor said the Hesco Barriers would be placed incrementally, depending on how much flooding was expected.


MacGregor said they've already used the aluminum panels on the main section of floodwall. He said those were put in place when the river flooded in 2019. That year they were using Hesco Barriers where the tie-back walls have now been built.


The Hesco Barriers failed and water flooded the Memorial Auditorium and Port of Burlington in June that year. MacGregor said that caused the city to switch their construction phases around. "We essentially flipped," MacGregor said. He said the city decided to build the tie-back walls before work began on the stormwater pumping station.


MacGregor said there is still more to do, including construction of stormwater pumping stations and floodwall work around the Wastewater Treatment Plant.


The state is funding the floodwall as part of a larger water improvement project.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

David Hightower is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.