The Flooded Cedar River at Waverly, 2008 and 2016
Waverly, Bremer County, Iowa
June 2008 was an unforgettable month for anyone living along the Cedar River. Waverly, like Cedar Rapids to its south, experienced severe flooding and significant property damage. The rest of Bremer County fared better that year.
When remembering 2008 ten years later, reporter Amie Steffen asked her readers “Was the Cedar River flood of 2016 just as bad as the flood of 2008?” The answer she received was yes and no. Yes, as much water may have been traveling down the river, but no, the damage to northeast Iowa cities in 2016 was not nearly as great. Cities along the Cedar responded to the 2008 damage with flood mitigation projects that prevented a repeat of June 2008. Waverly, specifically, “poured millions of dollars into flood mitigations projects designed to keep another 500-year flood at bay.”
Mayor Dean Soash told Steffen that state and federal grants paid for most of the projects (Waverly contributed some $150,000), but they were controversial just the same. The cost seemed outrageous for what was probably the largest capital project in the city’s history. But the inflatable bladder dam and reclaimed Dry Run Creek natural watershed kept downtown Waverly from flooding in 2016.
After 2008 when some 700 homes and 100 businesses were damaged, the city not only built the bladder dam and recreated the wetland. It also acquired 88 properties through a federal buyout program and moved 450 homes and businesses out of the 100-year flood plain.
City engineer Mike Cherry was especially proud of the reclaimed wetland. He told Steffen, “We completed these two flood mitigation projects by reclaiming and restoring nature’s balance, and we did it without building a single flood wall or levee.”
In May 2018 when another flood was expected to cancel an Art Walk in Kohlmann Park, the flood mitigation projects proved up to the task again. The event went on as planned.
Source: on line: Amie Steffen, “10th Anniversary of 2008 Flood,” The WCF Courier, June 7, 2018.