The news for Dubuque's Bee Branch Creek Watershed just keeps getting better.
What was once a source of repeated flooding, causing headaches and heartache for homeowners and city officials alike, is now the centerpiece of an evolving achievement.
Just two years ago, the City of Dubuque's plan to "daylight" the underground creek won a shot in the arm from the State of Iowa in the form of redirected sales tax dollars. That propelled forward the long-in-the-works plan to convert the creek from an underground culvert, prone to inundation, to a flowing waterway with room to rise with the rain. The result was the $200 million watershed flood-mitigation plan.
On Friday, the scope of the massive project grew.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it will award $31.5 million to the City of Dubuque for flood mitigation and damage repair.
Part of the money will be used to assist homeowners in the Bee Branch Creek Watershed with repair of damage caused by terrible flooding in 2011. The money also can be used to update homes in flood-prone areas.
Anyone who has spent much time in Dubuque has likely witnessed a rainstorm that turned Kaufmann Avenue or West Locust Street into rushing channels. Thanks to this deluge of federal money, those days of streets-turned-rivers could be over. The city's grant application calls for $2.6 million to build a storm sewer on West Locust from 17th Street to Rosedale Avenue. Another $11.5 million will be used to build a storm sewer from Central Avenue to Kane Street on Kaufmann.
More than $8 million, combined with $800,000 of city money, will be distributed in grants to rehabilitate 320 owner-occupied homes, rental units and small, multi-family residential units within the flood-prone area.
Another $9 million will help pay for the culvert under railroad property as part of the Upper Bee Branch Creek restoration project.
What an incredible facelift this financial infusion will provide for neighborhoods that have been washed out time and time again.
That's not to say the federal funding is simply "free money." Federal tax dollars are taxpayer dollars, too. They need to be spent wisely. But this expenditure represents a much-needed and overdue investment. During the past 15 years, Dubuque's North End has been flooded so often that it has been the subject of six presidential disaster declarations. That has cost the city and state millions, and property owners have paid a price as well. Preventive action like this and the entire Bee Branch project will save millions for decades to come.
City officials noted that disbursement of the grant money to multiple projects would likely require additional staff -- up to five employees. It's understandable that there must be City oversight required for distributing money to property owners for flood repairs or prevention work. But we hope the city will take a hard look at just how many positions it really needs to add to accomplish this. The less money spent on administrative work, the more there will be for flood repairs.
Although there are occasions where the federal government reaches too far into decisions that are better made on the state and local level -- our editorial of just one week ago made that point -- here's a great example of federal, state and local branches working together and cooperating to identify needs and solutions to best serve this community.
Editorials reflect the consensus of the TH Media Editorial Board.