Davenport debuts flood protection for water plant

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Permanent flood protection is now a reality around the Iowa American Water plant in Davenport. That's after waiting more than four decades to take the project from concept to reality.

From high above ground, the massive wall divides the Mississippi River from the plant. But this $11.8 million project is also a protector. It rises to block flood levels topping 31 feet. That's about eight feet above the 1993 records.

"This brings us to a level where the facility can operate with a significantly reduced risk," said Col. Mark Deschenes, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

That's why local leaders and participants came to celebrate on Thursday. The two-year construction project represents a partner between the federal government, city and water plant.

"The water plant and the city are not going to have to fight floods to keep the plant open during high water events," said project manager Michael Tarpey.

It wasn't always so promising. Photos from the 1965 flood show stacks of sandbags. It took manpower and money to protect the plant each flood. Even this spring, four rounds of high water challenged the project.

"It's going to prove its mettle the first time it's tested," said Davenport Public Works Director Mike Clarke.

After waiting more than 40 years to build it, this flood wall is finally a reality. It's something that's here to stay.

Federal funding paid for three-quarters of the project. Iowa American is asking for a rate hike to pay off its share. If approved, that portion of the rate increase would cost customers about .51 per month.

The wall will protect a plant that serves about 130,000 customers in the Iowa Quad Cities. Customers can rely on service during tough times.

"We can almost guarantee our customers that we'll be able to be continuous in our providing of water to the area during disastrous times such as a flood," said Randy Moore, president of Iowa American Water Company.

As a divider and protector, this great wall is ready to serve for decades to come.

"This is going to be around for a long time," Clarke concluded.

A wall that reaches high above and deep into the ground in Davenport.