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10 “Lessons Learned” From the Cedar Rapids 2008 Flood in New IWR Report

Published Sept. 21, 2018
2018-R-02 Cover

2018-R-02 Cover

Downtown Cedar Rapids, June 2008

Downtown Cedar Rapids, June 2008

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA.   The US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Institute for Water Resources, in conjunction with its Rock Island District, recently released a report entitled Cedar Rapids Flood Risk Management: A Case Study in Disaster Recovery.  The report provides an overview and details of post-flood recovery actions in Cedar Rapids, Iowa following devastating flooding of the Cedar River in June 2008.  It also includes observations and lessons regarding U.S. flood risk management drawn from the city’s recovery efforts.

In June 2008, Cedar Rapids experienced record flooding of the Cedar River.  The river crested at nearly 20 feet above local flood stage and devastated the city's downtown area, thousands of residential properties, and much of the city’s water supply and wastewater treatment infrastructure.  The flood and Cedar Rapids’ losses were national-level news for several weeks.  Total losses were estimated at $5.4 billion and the event was Iowa’s largest natural disaster.

Following the flood, the city of Cedar Rapids, with support from the State of Iowa and the US federal government, implemented an impressive variety of post-flood recovery actions and strategies. The city’s innovative actions and planning attracted considerable attention from across the nation. For example, Cedar Rapids’ recovery efforts were discussed during congressional committee hearings in Washington, DC.  A March 2017 hearing on U.S. flooding challenges convened by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works included USACE Chief of Engineers Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, and (then) Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett.

Cedar Rapids’ post-flood recovery experience provides an opportunity to better understand contemporary approaches to community flood risk management and post-flood recovery, and the choices and opportunities following large flood disasters.  This report should thus be of interest to officials in other U.S. communities facing riverine or coastal flood risks, and to flood risk management and recovery experts in the U.S. and abroad.

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