As the city builds another, larger temporary flood wall to keep rising Mississippi River waters at bay, Davenport City Administrator Corri Spiegel said the city’s plan for dealing with flooding “is not and never was intended specifically to protect businesses.” Rather, she says the plan’s main objective is to protect “critical public assets and infrastructure.”
Spiegel’s comments came in an open letter posted Wednesday on the city's website.
Downtown businesses are clawing back toward recovery after the disastrous April 30 barrier breach that sent river water gushing through downtown. After sifting through the wreckage, many say they’ll remain closed for months; others are leaving downtown for good.
Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch has announced the creation of a task force that will examine ways to improve Davenport’s flood fighting strategy.
"The flood plan has always been a living document," Spiegel wrote. "But it may need a shock to bring it back into rhythm with today’s circumstances, including the threat of more frequent flooding at new record river levels."
She also urged the public to suspend judgment about what caused the breach.
While there are observations and theories out there, Spiegel said, the cause remains unknown. Experts from barrier manufacturer HESCO and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working to recreate the conditions, so they can make a final determination, she said.
“These results will be shared with the community because we know that people will be making important decisions based on that information," she said. "If something was done incorrectly, we will discuss it then.”
Meanwhile, Spiegel says the city will change its standard practice, and build larger flood walls when there is a high probability the river crest will exceed 21 feet. Days after the last temporary barrier broke, the river hit a historic crest of 22.7 feet.
Davenport public works crews began assembling the larger flood wall last week, and placed a new section at East Third and LeClaire streets. The design uses two lines of HESCO barriers on the ground with another two stacked on top. Spiegel said the public works department could not responsibly and safely add a second layer to the last flood wall holding back the Mississippi River because of extreme pressure.
“Such efforts could have compromised the existing wall and pump set ups,” she wrote. “As crews build a new wall now, they are taking extra precautions to set up a bigger, heavier wall to hold the river back."
HESCO officials released a statement in early May following an internal company investigation of the breach. Their findings say the breach was not caused by a structural fault of the barrier, and offer two other likely scenarios: Water rose over the tops of the barriers or the road underneath the barrier collapsed.
Following a dry spell that briefly cleared Davenport’s River Drive of water, it was determined the road remained intact despite being submerged for several weeks. Spiegel noted that observation in her letter and added water over topping the barrier has also been ruled out.