By Diane Heldt
Eastern Iowa Government
IOWA CITY — Despite concerns about the federal budget, Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack said Monday in Iowa City he thinks federal funding for a proposed national flood center is important and could provide savings in the long term.
The research of flood preparation and mitigation that would happen at a national flood center could lead to some prevention of flood damage to property and eventual savings by lessening the federal money needed to help people after flood disasters, and by creating efficiencies in government agency cooperation, Loebsack said.
Climate change, increased development and changing demographics are factors that will lead to more floods, the Iowa City Democrat said, which necessitates a national flood center to pull flood experts together. It’s a national problem, and all taxpayers foot the bill when the federal government steps in after a flood, he said.
“We’re gonna continue to see this. It’s a national concern,” he said. “I think there are strong arguments to make for this center.”
Loebsack visited with officials at the Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa Monday. Loebsack gave an update on his proposed legislation to start a national flood center, which UI officials hope will be housed at the UI.
The bill is still in the works and has no proposed price tag at this point, Loebsack said. He is concerned about the federal budget, but Loebsack thinks establishing a national flood center is a priority for people around the country.
UI officials have submitted a preproposal to the National Science Foundation for possible funding for a national flood center, Larry Weber, director of IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering at the UI, said. A national center would be a way for experts around the country to collaborate on flood research, he said, pulling together different agencies and strengths.
The Iowa Flood Center, established with state funding in 2009 in the wake of the 2008 flood, is working on a statewide floodplain mapping project and installing sensors on 25,000 bridges around the state to gather data. With the recent flooding in Western Iowa, the Iowa Flood Center gathered high-resolution photos of Missouri River flooding to determine the boundaries of inundated areas to compare with existing floodplain maps, for example.
Kalona City Administrator Ryan Schlabaugh Monday said the researchers from the Iowa Flood Center helped the city considerably after the Federal Emergency Management Agency released a first-ever flood plain map of the city in 2009. The mapping showed that 70 percent of the town’s population would have to purchase mandatory flood insurance, Schlabaugh said. Iowa Flood Center officials helped explain the maps, raise awareness in the community and helped the city work with FEMA to reduce the mandatory insurance level, he said.
“They’ve been a huge resource for us,” Schlabaugh said.