MAQUOKETA, Iowa — The City of Maquoketa recently was awarded a $2.3 million federal grant to aid its efforts to improve stormwater infrastructure to help mitigate flooding.
“It puts resources in place that don’t necessarily require us to do the things manually we were doing before,” said City Administrator Gerald Smith. “Our floodgates were leaking and causing water to come through, and it required we have manpower to manage it and keep an eye on it.”
The U.S. Economic Development Administration announced the grant this week. The city must match 25% of the grant amount, which equates to $575,000.
The grant is funded by the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019, which provided the EDA with $600 million for disaster relief such as wildfires and floods.
Maquoketa businesses such as Precision Metal Works, Maquoketa Co. and Devenish Nutrition said the yearly heavy rainfalls have impacted their businesses, which, in turn, has stunted their ability to expand, said Mark Schneider, co-director of community and economic development with East Central Intergovernmental Association.
The planned stormwater improvements will allow the three local businesses to bring on a total of seven additional employees and maintain 88 existing jobs.
“They are looking to expand their operations, and as a result of the project, they won’t have any future flooding,” Schneider said.
The $2.9 million project includes the installation of new city floodgates and permanent flood pumps, said Maquoketa Public Works Director Frank Ellenz.
“Right now, whether you believe in climate change or not, the flood levels in the Mississippi and Maquoketa River are getting more and more,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time before we get a really bad spring rain and we will not be able to keep up with our pumps.”
Ellenz said the city struggles with not just keeping the river water out but also with stormwater from heavy rainstorms.
“Our floodgates are failing, and we are not only pumping stormwater over, but we are pumping river water back into the river,” he said.
Ellenz said Maquoketa has three portable pumps and occasionally borrows two more from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The grant money will allow the city to purchase four permanent flood pumps.
“We will still have to have (staff on) flood watch,” he said. “It will just be a lot easier, safer, and we are almost guaranteed we will not have flooding on the north end.”
Smith said city officials applied for the grant about a year ago after the city was impacted by heavy floods due to the rising water level of the Maquoketa River.