Iowa City Press-Citizen: Loebsack Pushes Congress for National Flood Center

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Loebsack hopes flooding threat outweighs partisanship

Iowa congressman continues to push for national flood center at University of Iowa

  •  
  •  
  •  4
  •  

Buy this photo

Congressman Dave Loebsack talks with Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett before a news conference about legislation he recently introduced to establish a National Flood Center as he stands along the Iowa River behind the P. Sue Beckwith Boathouse on the University of Iowa campus Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013 in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack is hoping that climate change will help him win support for his proposal to establish a national flood center at the University of Iowa.

Not the kind of climate change that some would argue is contributing to more flooding across the country, but a different climate in Congress.

Loebsack believes that since he first introduced his National Flood Research and Education Act two years ago, the attitude toward flood prevention, mitigation and recovery has changed.

“There’s been a lot more flood events, Hurricane Sandy and others,” Loebsack said Tuesday at an Iowa City news conference at the Beckwith Boathouse on the bank of the Iowa River. “I think there’s a lot more seriousness of purpose to do what we can to make sure we understand why floods occur, to make sure we have the kinds of recovery we need from floods and to make sure we do what we can to prevent floods in the future.”

The Iowa City Democrat is proposing a national flood center that would bring together academia and federal agencies involved in flood prevention and recovery.

The concept of a flood center drawing on the resources of federal agencies and academic institutions to increase public safety and reduce the economic losses associated with floods is a “forward-looking plan” said Witold Krajewski, director of the UI Flood Center.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, flooding causes more damage in the United States than any other severe weather related event — an average of $5.3 billion a year for the 30-year periods from 1975 to 2004.

“Floods are complex societal problems,” Krajewski said, noting that the center “can work shoulder-to-shoulder with federal and state agencies” on long- and short-term strategies.

“The center would bring together ideas and solutions from many disciplines and accelerate the process of building resilient communities,” Krajewski said.

Johnson County Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said the community saw the benefit of the UI Flood Center during flooding earlier this year. The information it provided allowed Iowa City, Coralville and other Iowa River communities to take appropriate preventive measures such as putting flood walls, he said.

He called the national flood center an “investment that, quite frankly, I think is quite minimal compared to what happens after a disaster.”

“Hopefully, the message that other Congress people around the United States are going to get is that if you invest a little here, you can save a whole lot of money in the future,” Neuzil said.

It’s Loebsack’s hope that if his proposal is approved and funded — $10 million a year to be divided between NOAA and the center — the UI can lead a consortium of universities that already are working on hydrology and flood-related projects.

Despite the apparent inability of Congress to pass any legislation, Loebsack is hopeful that the threat of flood damage is stronger than partisanship.

“Floods don’t know political parties … don’t know about partisanship. The water doesn’t care whether you are Democrat or Republican,” Loebsack said. “This is all over the country, in all kinds of districts.”

- See more at: http://thegazette.com/2013/08/06/loebsack-hopes-flooding-threat-outweigh...

Loebsack hopes flooding threat outweighs partisanship

Iowa congressman continues to push for national flood center at University of Iowa

  •  
  •  
  •  4
  •  

Buy this photo

Congressman Dave Loebsack talks with Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett before a news conference about legislation he recently introduced to establish a National Flood Center as he stands along the Iowa River behind the P. Sue Beckwith Boathouse on the University of Iowa campus Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013 in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack is hoping that climate change will help him win support for his proposal to establish a national flood center at the University of Iowa.

Not the kind of climate change that some would argue is contributing to more flooding across the country, but a different climate in Congress.

Loebsack believes that since he first introduced his National Flood Research and Education Act two years ago, the attitude toward flood prevention, mitigation and recovery has changed.

“There’s been a lot more flood events, Hurricane Sandy and others,” Loebsack said Tuesday at an Iowa City news conference at the Beckwith Boathouse on the bank of the Iowa River. “I think there’s a lot more seriousness of purpose to do what we can to make sure we understand why floods occur, to make sure we have the kinds of recovery we need from floods and to make sure we do what we can to prevent floods in the future.”

The Iowa City Democrat is proposing a national flood center that would bring together academia and federal agencies involved in flood prevention and recovery.

The concept of a flood center drawing on the resources of federal agencies and academic institutions to increase public safety and reduce the economic losses associated with floods is a “forward-looking plan” said Witold Krajewski, director of the UI Flood Center.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, flooding causes more damage in the United States than any other severe weather related event — an average of $5.3 billion a year for the 30-year periods from 1975 to 2004.

“Floods are complex societal problems,” Krajewski said, noting that the center “can work shoulder-to-shoulder with federal and state agencies” on long- and short-term strategies.

“The center would bring together ideas and solutions from many disciplines and accelerate the process of building resilient communities,” Krajewski said.

Johnson County Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said the community saw the benefit of the UI Flood Center during flooding earlier this year. The information it provided allowed Iowa City, Coralville and other Iowa River communities to take appropriate preventive measures such as putting flood walls, he said.

He called the national flood center an “investment that, quite frankly, I think is quite minimal compared to what happens after a disaster.”

“Hopefully, the message that other Congress people around the United States are going to get is that if you invest a little here, you can save a whole lot of money in the future,” Neuzil said.

It’s Loebsack’s hope that if his proposal is approved and funded — $10 million a year to be divided between NOAA and the center — the UI can lead a consortium of universities that already are working on hydrology and flood-related projects.

Despite the apparent inability of Congress to pass any legislation, Loebsack is hopeful that the threat of flood damage is stronger than partisanship.

“Floods don’t know political parties … don’t know about partisanship. The water doesn’t care whether you are Democrat or Republican,” Loebsack said. “This is all over the country, in all kinds of districts.”

- See more at: http://thegazette.com/2013/08/06/loebsack-hopes-flooding-threat-outweigh...

Loebsack hopes flooding threat outweighs partisanship

Iowa congressman continues to push for national flood center at University of Iowa

  •  
  •  
  •  4
  •  

Buy this photo

Congressman Dave Loebsack talks with Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett before a news conference about legislation he recently introduced to establish a National Flood Center as he stands along the Iowa River behind the P. Sue Beckwith Boathouse on the University of Iowa campus Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013 in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack is hoping that climate change will help him win support for his proposal to establish a national flood center at the University of Iowa.

Not the kind of climate change that some would argue is contributing to more flooding across the country, but a different climate in Congress.

Loebsack believes that since he first introduced his National Flood Research and Education Act two years ago, the attitude toward flood prevention, mitigation and recovery has changed.

“There’s been a lot more flood events, Hurricane Sandy and others,” Loebsack said Tuesday at an Iowa City news conference at the Beckwith Boathouse on the bank of the Iowa River. “I think there’s a lot more seriousness of purpose to do what we can to make sure we understand why floods occur, to make sure we have the kinds of recovery we need from floods and to make sure we do what we can to prevent floods in the future.”

The Iowa City Democrat is proposing a national flood center that would bring together academia and federal agencies involved in flood prevention and recovery.

The concept of a flood center drawing on the resources of federal agencies and academic institutions to increase public safety and reduce the economic losses associated with floods is a “forward-looking plan” said Witold Krajewski, director of the UI Flood Center.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, flooding causes more damage in the United States than any other severe weather related event — an average of $5.3 billion a year for the 30-year periods from 1975 to 2004.

“Floods are complex societal problems,” Krajewski said, noting that the center “can work shoulder-to-shoulder with federal and state agencies” on long- and short-term strategies.

“The center would bring together ideas and solutions from many disciplines and accelerate the process of building resilient communities,” Krajewski said.

Johnson County Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said the community saw the benefit of the UI Flood Center during flooding earlier this year. The information it provided allowed Iowa City, Coralville and other Iowa River communities to take appropriate preventive measures such as putting flood walls, he said.

He called the national flood center an “investment that, quite frankly, I think is quite minimal compared to what happens after a disaster.”

“Hopefully, the message that other Congress people around the United States are going to get is that if you invest a little here, you can save a whole lot of money in the future,” Neuzil said.

It’s Loebsack’s hope that if his proposal is approved and funded — $10 million a year to be divided between NOAA and the center — the UI can lead a consortium of universities that already are working on hydrology and flood-related projects.

Despite the apparent inability of Congress to pass any legislation, Loebsack is hopeful that the threat of flood damage is stronger than partisanship.

“Floods don’t know political parties … don’t know about partisanship. The water doesn’t care whether you are Democrat or Republican,” Loebsack said. “This is all over the country, in all kinds of districts.”

- See more at: http://thegazette.com/2013/08/06/loebsack-hopes-flooding-threat-outweigh...

Says center, which he hopes is at UI, is needed now more than ever

National Flood Center proposal
National Flood Center proposal: Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack explains his proposal to create a National Flood Center.
 
Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, speaks to guests Tuesday at the University of Iowa P. Sue Beckwith Boathouse.
Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, speaks to guests Tuesday at the University of Iowa P. Sue Beckwith Boathouse. / David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

Standing at a spot near the University of Iowa’s Beckwith Boathouse where months ago he would have been treading water, Rep. Dave Loebsack on Tuesday explained his plan to help communities prepare for and even prevent flooding like that which has plagued Iowa City.

The National Flood Research and Education Act, a proposal Loebsack introduced to Congress last Friday, seeks to convene a consortium of universities and federal agencies to research the causes of flooding and perhaps even find ways to prevent them. It would be a national version of UI’s Iowa Flood Center, which Loebsack praised heavily in announcing his proposal to create a National Flood Center.

“We’ve seen a lot more flood events, Hurricane Sandy and others,” Loebsack said. “I think there’s a lot more seriousness of purpose about doing what we can to make sure that we understand why floods occur, to make sure that we have the kind of recovery that we need from floods and to make sure we do what we can to prevent floods in the future.”

The proposal includes a $10 million start-up appropriation for the center, which Loebsack said he hopes would continue for at least five years. Loebsack said he also hopes the center would be headquartered at UI, but said that remains to be seen.

This isn’t the first time the Democrat from Iowa City has proposed a National Flood Center. In August 2011, he announced the first version of the proposal at a news conference flanked by Iowa Flood Center leaders. The reason that proposal fell flat, Loebsack said Tuesday, is because the political climate was less welcoming and the physical climate didn’t appear as dire as it does today. Further, that proposal focused only on inland waterways, while the current one covers coastal areas as well, Loebsack said.

It’s late in the Congressional session, but Loebsack said he thinks the bill could potentially be included in the reauthorization of the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA). He said he’s in talks with leaders on the committee that’s overseeing that measure. A proposal seeks to reauthorize WRDA for five years, which would, if it’s included, ensure funding for the National Flood Center for that time, Loebsack said.

The responsibility of preparing for and preventing floods spans several federal agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service. Each of those has a well-defined mission, which they tend to stick to, and often crossing those boundaries is difficult, said Witold Krajewski, director of the Iowa Flood Center.

“If you have an academically-led center, then you are much more agile in making sure that everybody talks to everybody,” he said.

Sometimes the advances in academia don’t materialize into real-world solutions because researchers don’t communicate directly with government officials, a problem the National Flood Center would help alleviate, Krajewski said.

The latest flooding in Iowa City, the brunt of which came and went in June, cost UI alone more than $5 million in preparation and cleanup.

Johnson County Supervisor Terrence Neuzil, who helped coordinate the county’s flood preparation, said at the news conference Tuesday that the flood center was crucial in helping communities such as Iowa City and Coralville prepare for this year’s flooding. Each morning, the flood center provided valuable data such as water levels and where the water was heading, he said.

“Knowing that and being able to put up floodwalls and other preventative measures and having the timing to do so, from the University of Iowa’s perspective or other communities, taking that kind of technology and sending it around the United States, that investment in preventative measures seems to make a whole lot of sense,” Neuzil said.

Loebsack praised Iowa legislators in the audience Tuesday, including state senators Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, and Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, for helping to secure funding in 2009 to establish the Iowa Flood Center, which has designed a sensor network to monitor stream flow statewide. The center also launched an interactive online tool that uses Google Maps to show the impact a flood would have at different water levels, a tool that saw lots of traffic in the latest round of flooding.

Dvorsky said other Congressional leaders should latch onto Loebsack’s proposal because flooding has become the “new normal.”

“It’s not if there are going to be floods, it’s when, the duration and how many and what the impact will be,” he said.