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Four Iowa cities to get help applying for federal flood mitigation grants


December 8th, 2023 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Four Iowa cities are getting technical assistance in seeking federal grants for projects to prevent future flooding. The Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa will help Columbus Junction, Dubuque, Manchester and Muscatine compile the data to make the best argument for federal funding. Iowa Flood Center program manager Kate Giannini says they’re working with the American Flood Coalition on the project.

“We have a lot of tools and equipment and infrastructure to help with those communities during the grant application process,” Giannini says, “and the American Flood Coalition has the administrative experts and policy experts to help them navigate the process of accessing those federal funds and what’s the best source of funding for the projects they identify.” Federal grants are typically awarded to larger cities that have professional grant writers on staff.

“We really see the federal infrastructure funds as historical funds that can have some generational impacts,” Giannini says. “..This effort is really working with those smaller communities that don’t really have the access or the capacity to go after these larger infrastructure funds that are available right now.” According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, one-point-eight BILLION dollars in grants will be awarded between now and the end of September for flood mitigation projects.

Graphic of American Flood Coalition’s Iowa Flood Resilient Communities Cohort (Used with AFC’s permission)

Dubuque had significant Mississippi River flooding this spring. In 2008, Columbus Junction was major flooding from the Iowa and Cedar Rivers. In Manchester, the Maquoketa River caused major flooding in 2018. Manchester City Manager Tony Vick says the river will rise again — and the city wants to be prepared. “We really want to make sure we maximize the bang for the buck when we do something,” Vick says, “…whether it’s protecting existing houses, whether it’s being able to do some removal nutrients from the water so we’re not having some of that pollution and control issues.”

Vick says this is a great opportunity for Manchester to be part of pilot project in Iowa that’s modeled after an American Flood Coalition project in South Carolina. “We have some ideas of what we’d like to do or think need to be done in order to help us with flood protection and this is a way for us to be able to identify what programs are available for us through the federal government,” Vick says. “There are different opportunities that are available and we want to make sure we find the ones that are the right fit.”

Muscatine officials have been working on a long-term project to shore up an island levee to protect businesses from Mississippi River flooding. Staff from the American Flood Coalition and the Iowa Flood Center will meet with officials from each of the four Iowa cities monthly and hopefully file grant applications next summer or fall. The Walton Family Foundation is providing the money to support the work of the American Flood Coalition and the Iowa Flood Center on this pilot project.