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UI unveils new flood model; can predict lots

Andrea Faucett, of Ayres Associates, explains a new model of the Iowa River Friday in Iowa City.

Andrea Faucett, of Ayres Associates, explains a new model of the Iowa River Friday in Iowa City.

IOWA CITY — A new hydraulic model of the Iowa River that will help Iowa City and Coralville coordinate their flood protection plans was unveiled Friday by the University of Iowa.

The new model uses high-quality photos and streamflow data to predict both what will be flooded at which river volumes and precisely how much each bridge or dam exacerbates the flooding.

Andrea Faucett, an engineer with Ayres Associates in Fort Collins, Co., who helped develop the model, called it a “detailed predictive tool for the university.”

The university will maintain a sort of master model of the river, and Iowa City and Coralville’s engineers will be able to test their plans on it, to see how the river will respond to a new bridge, or a raised berm along its banks.

“In a matter of an hour or a few hours, you can have an answer back,” said Dan Holderness, Coralville’s city engineer.

This will come in handy, Holderness said, as the city plans to raise the CRANDIC rail line along the river by seven feet.

The model shows that the much-maligned UI cofferdam raised the upstream level of the river by six inches at the Iowa Memorial Union bridge during the June flood, and four inches at the Park Road bridge. Those are significant amounts, but they’re less than officials speculated immediately after the flood.

The two residential neighborhoods that sustained the worst flooding were upstream of the cofferdam.

The cofferdam barrier was installed near the Iowa Avenue bridge for a University of Iowa project that was supposed to be finished more than a year before the flood but was delayed by construction woes and bad weather.

As the Iowa River rose in June, UI officials said the water level made removing the cofferdam too dangerous, and the UI came under some criticism for it.

The new model offers no new answers on Hancher Auditorium.

State Regents President David Miles said in March that replacing the 36-year-old auditorium is likely the best choice.

The Board of Regents has taken no official position on what to do with the existing Hancher/Voxman/Clapp and Art Building East complexes, but documents the UI submitted to the regents made clear university officials believe the best long-term option is constructing new buildings elsewhere.

Filed under: Flood

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