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One year since the flood breach: What Davenport leaders have and haven't learned

The historic flood breach downtown took place April 30th of 2019.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — City leaders remember the date above all too well.

What they haven't learned

 "I don't think you can pinpoint it to any one thing," Davenport City Administrator Corri Spiegel said in an interview earlier in April when asked about the flood breach. 

City leaders still don't exactly know why the hesco barriers failed, but they were up for a long amount of time last year.

"We got a ton of rain back to back," she said. "I think it was a culmination of a lot of those things, and so some of the actions we've taken from last year into this year of having a better roughed up surface on River Drive, so we have that better friction layer."

What they have learned

Earlier this month, city crews put up two hesco layers instead of one, even though the crest of 18 feet was more than four and a half feet lower than what it was on May 2nd, 2019. That day, the river in Rock Island and Davenport crested at 22.7 feet, the highest crest on record at that spot. Once the Mississippi hit 22.64 feet that day, the 1993 record had already been broken.

"Double would have been fine last year," Spiegel said when asked about having two layers up last year instead of one. "I think even at 22.2, we still had a good foot plus of clearance."

The city has a new mayor now. Mike Matson says they're hiring a consultant to look at how to attack floods like last years. 

"My goal to Ms. Spiegel and to our staff when I first became Mayor was within two years, we'd have the consultant hired," Matson said. "We would have all the public input. We would have the recommendation from this firm through all the dialogue, and the council would approve it, and we are starting to move on our future flood protection system." 

Is a flood wall coming in the future?

The consulting firm Matson was talking about will likely determine whether that's needed. 

The city's accepting submissions on the defense systems for the Mississippi River, whether that involves adding more pumps, gates, building a permanent flood wall, or a temporary one.

Matson says water can still go under a flood wall though and come up through the ground on the other side.

"I don't know how a flood wall along the river would be successful," he said. "At the same time the cost of that at least in estimates of different folks is ballpark, $100 million."

The proposals that come back from all the engineering firms are due Friday, May 1st. Matson says the public could start to weigh in on the defense system, this summer.

Is the flood task force still meeting? 

No, but Matson says a committee will be formed after the consulting firm makes its recommendation. He did not reconstitute the flood task force that former Mayor Frank Klipsch implemented, but he says he brought those members in to gather their ideas before adjusting the hesco barrier layers for the spring of 2020.   

To see flooded downtown Davenport from April and May of 2019, click here. 

RELATED: Flooded Downtown Davenport: Photos of the 2019 barrier breach

RELATED: Watch: First moments after 2019 Davenport flood breach caught on Facebook Live 

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