Cedar Rapids Flood Control Planning and Design


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  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa

The City of Cedar Rapids experienced one of the country’s most devastating natural disasters in 2008. This flood event resulted in $5.4 billion in damage to real estate and private property, impacted nearly 7,200 parcels within a 10-square mile area of the City of Cedar Rapids, and displaced 18,000 residents. Fortunately, there were no lives lost. Eight years later, another significant flood event materialized.

HR Green was engaged to provide ongoing flood mitigation planning, design, and construction administration services to protect neighborhoods, businesses, and critical facilities for citizens in the metropolitan area. In addition, the project has also included efforts to mitigate interior drainage. This translates to removing properties from the 100-year floodplain elevation (and associated floodplain insurance premiums) for the near future.

Our engineering staff have focused on levees; utility removal and relocation; related infrastructure (e.g., roads, pedestrian trails, park amenities); stormwater models that define design limits as well as fulfilling the design of pump stations, gate wells, and detention ponds; and removable walls; while our construction services team has provides critical construction observation and administrative services for specific flood-related improvements.

Innovation has been and continues to be a core focus of our team. As the single largest capital improvement project in the city’s history, the Cedar Rapids Flood Control team has made several unique and innovative contributions. Here is a sample of some of the more significant:

  • Cultivating and helping validate over 30 individual funding options to underwrite this nearly $1 billion project;
  • Creating a systematic approach that resulted in the review and evaluation of flood control systems in the Midwest. This effort also coincided with working with the City’s operations team to define physical improvement expectations for the system as well as a method to deploy the system in a timely manner;
  • Providing real-time resource assistance during the 2016 flood event. Several HR Green flood mitigation team members worked round-the-clock to provide technical information concerning interim flood-control heights, location of temporary pump stations, and even provide on-site monitoring;
  • Applying innovative public engagement efforts to cultivate community support and input during the design process. This has also extended to working with developers to incorporate flood control design with planned residential and commercial construction projects; and
  • Implementing a “program management” approach to implementing this project. This approach creates one point of contact for the project and directs technical aspects associated with the design, modeling, and permitting efforts to deputy project managers. Over the past nine years, this has been a model of efficiency in meeting project schedules, securing resources, and developing scopes and fees.

The Cedar Rapids Flood Control team has coordinated seamlessly with regulatory agencies, community stakeholders, and a myriad of City departments to keep this complex project within budget and schedule, protect lives and property, incorporate amenities, emphasize aesthetics, promote economic revitalization, achieve accreditation, and establish resiliency and sustainability.

One of the more unique attributes of HR Green’s contribution has been focused on creating a flood control system that is also a community amenity. The design team continues to coordinate with private development interests as well as the Parks and Recreation Department to design trails, park and open space amenities, future areas to accommodate development, and community facilities that contribute to more stable neighborhoods.

The team has adopted a design philosophy that the FCS (Flood Control System) will be present 100% of the time but will hopefully only be needed 1% of the time. During the remaining 99% of the time, this system will contribute to community betterment through the creation of trails, parks, and detention ponds that can also serve as recreational venues.


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