Now that Hamburg has been awarded the money, the next step is planning the levee.
It won’t be easy and it won’t be automatic, but Hamburg is at least in position to have the 919 levee that it wanted back in 2011, one that would protect the town.
Al Dovel, utilities manager for the City of Hamburg, said the 919 height was selected after consultation with engineers with the Army Corps of Engineers. Based on their models of worse case scenarios, the Corps of Engineers doesn’t foresee a flood disaster event that would bring enough water to Hamburg to go over a 919 levee.
At current, the Corps of Engineers is getting set to commence work on a project to establish a base levee height of 911 feet above sea level.
The Corps of Engineers has already done the engineering work to figure out how to build the 919 levee. Since that cost is accounted for, Hamburg could benefit from savings by not having to do engineering work themselves for the 919 height, which could mean a savings of as much as $1 million on the final price.
Dovel and the City of Hamburg realize the sense of urgency and would like to get the 919 process going as quickly as possible. If details of the projects and the funding allow for it, Dovel said he is hoping to have the two projects work in concert when the Corps begins the 911 build on Oct. 10. If that’s possible, Dovel said more of the levee could be built before winter than if there is a wait while the Corps does the 911 project.
That’s important since the spring forecast for flooding indicates an 80 percent chance of a flood incident in 2020.
Mayor Cathy Crain also notes that the flood season, which usually ends at the start of October, could linger into December, thus increasing further the chances for flooding in spring 2020.
“We are motivated to try to do what we can,” said Mayor Crain.
The main thing, Crain said, is that Hamburg is determined this will work.
“They asked us if we could do it for $6.3 and we said, ‘You bet. We’ll figure it out.’”
To be clear, there is more to this levee project that simply building it up to a 919 elevation. The levee will provide protection by sealing off flood water that could come to Hamburg from the Missouri River, both to the west and to the southwest. And it will protect from levee breaches south of Hamburg on the Nishnabotna.
Plus, the levee will be permanent. Dovel said the Iowa Department of Transportation is going to do road projects, both on the road leaving Hamburg to the west, toward the interstate, and on the county road under the underpass at the south end of Hamburg. The projects will raise the level of the road so that it goes over the levee. That means the 919 height won’t have to built up across a roadway sized hole in the levee before flood water arrives.