DAVENPORT, Iowa – In early July 2014, the Mississippi downtown Davenport underwater, turning its mini-baseball stadium into an island. It happened at a very bad time: just before Liberty Day weekend series through a game against vertical rivals from Wisconsin.
But the game was going on.
With flood waters falling at its base, the stadium welcomes more than 6,000 fans to watch Bandits River of hometown when they accept the Wood Carousel of Appleton, Wisc. The post-match fireworks display was more than ever, and Ferris wheel offered the bird's scenic stadium on the floods.
“This (stadium) – it becomes central as the center of the Mississippi River,” said Davenport Mayor, Frank Klipsch.
That's a design. Davenport, a population of 103,000, is the only major city along the Upper Mississippi without a flood wall. Part of its downtown functions as an urban floodplain.
During floods, elevated raised hills connect to removable steel bridges and ramps to the stadium. Parking is tight when much of it is under water, so the River Bandits lists shuttle to bring fans from many on the higher ground.
Since the 1980s, Davenport has put limits on development along the river. As buildings adapted to flooding, such as the stadium, or when they were laid down or relocated, the city green has disappeared. There are almost 560 acres of fields and corridors in command of a nine mile stretch, many of which can hold or absorb flood water.
On the southern edge of the city is the 5th acre of Nahant Marsh, one of the largest urban wetlands in the Mississippi. The location of a gun club for almost 30 years, the marsh was extensively cleaned with 243 tonnes of lead shot and litter piles. Now the bird hosts a variety of birds and other wildlife and an educational center that attracts thousands of visitors each year.
More importantly for Davenport, the marsh acts as a huge sponge. Each acres of a River Nodder can raise 1.5 million gallons of flood water. The marsh can keep millions more as stable water.
“The river had wet places like this,” said Brian Ritter, marsh executive director. “Our connectivity to them is broken or infilled, and flooding is likely to get worse. But we have the amazing potential here to catch billions and billions of gallons of flood water every time the Mississippi grows. ”
Davenport plans to submerge larger plots, an absorbed water sculpture park, and sand stretches of the river bank.
The river has clear views and easy access after encouraging the development of the town center, outdoor recreation and tourism, Davenport leaders say.
“Most people say they come here because of the river,” said Mary Ellen Chamberlin, resident of Davenport who led a fight in the late 1960s against a planned flood wall. “They can see it and they can put their feet on the big Muddy.” T
Davenport's open route to the river is a source of local pride. But the city is suffering damage during severe flooding. After flooding in 2001, the city needed more than $ 3 million to pay for cleaning. FEMA, covering 90 per cent of the tab, was critical of Davenport for refusing to build a flood wall. Davenport's part of the costs – about $ 310,000 – was not much more than the nearly $ 300,000 which the city felt had to spend spent each year.
It is also worth mentioning that Davenport leaders say that cities with flood protection suffered significant damage during the same flood.
“It's up to the point where the river comes up and we just rinse,” Chamberlin said.
Davenport's lead is not easy. There are many river cities, Hannibal, Mo. included, grown up alongside flood walls and levees. Such defenses would require costly and disruptive refurbishment of buildings, streets and other infrastructure.
There are ways to live with flooding pulling along the river. Illinois is to be complimented on what flood risk experts call “managed recession” from the river. Purchase and relocation programs are aggressive by the state, and have enforced some of the most difficult floodplain development constraints in the country.
“We got serious after a 1993 flood,” said Paul Osman, flood plains program manager for Illinois Natural Resources Department. “Now we are one in the nation with the lowest number of claims (flood insurance) on new buildings. We are only building floodplains. ”
Since 1993 the state has purchased about 6,000 buildings at risk and moved the entire towns out of the way of injury.
Valmeyer, Ill., “The poster child” for large-scale relocation, said Nicholas Pinter, a geologist with the University of California, Davis.
“It was devastating in 1993,” he said. “Now it's almost rebuilt and its population moved on to the Bluff tops, about 300 feet higher up.”
Valmeyer had approximately 1,000 people before the move. “Today, it's almost double in size and it's growing crazy,” Osman said.
Illinois is spending $ 5 million buying 150 structures as Osman calls “one of the most demanding places to build a community” – the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, where the land is low, sand and flood.
Grafton, another small Illinois community, managed to relieve levers in favor of buyers and slow reversal, higher to higher ground. Much of the old Grafton is similar to the river Davenport, with green spaces and footpaths. New Grafton, which is relocated to nearby bluff, is high and dry.
“They've been flooded since they were bought,” said Osman. “But they are all non-events in Grafton.”
The options look bare: fit or soft. The alternative is to build higher levees and stronger flood walls. Klipsch, Davenport's mayor, says that this course is reckless for his community and for those coming up. A better option is to let the river run its course.
“We didn't set up a flood wall and pushed our problems down to places like Louisiana,” he said. “The river doesn't come outside its banks. We know that. We accept this. ”
This series was partly possible through a fellowship from the Institute of Journalism and Natural Resources.
Read all the stories:
– River Revenge: The Mississippi remains crucial to our prosperity, but it is hostile to attempts to control it.
– Creating a transported transit for commerce – How Minneapolis wanted to be as the commercial money to New Orleans.
– Remodeling the Mississippi is revealing a wildlife habitat.
– Dredging, dams and other river controls place places on much needed sediments.
– When a community lifted a lever to protect itself, your neighbors got worse floods.
– For some of the Mississippi River cities, there are only 2 non-suitable or soft options.