Iowa City Press-Citizen: Regents Budget Includes $1.5 Million for Flood Center

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

By Emily Schettler
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Researchers and employees at the Iowa Flood Center should be able to plan further in advance on research projects and other work thanks to a more permanent funding source approved this week by the Legislature.

Iowa lawmakers in the House and Senate approved a new $1.5 million line item budget for the flood center earlier this week as part of its overall Regents budget.

The bill still needs to be signed by Gov. Terry Branstad.

The Iowa Flood Center was established at the University of Iowa in 2009 to study and monitor flooding within Iowa and help predict future flood events.

Originally, the center received state funding from the Rebuilding Iowa Infrastructure Fund.

Flood center director Witold Krajewsi said the new line item funding will provide more stability and allow staff to develop more long term plans.

“From day one, the legislators recognized we have the expertise here that’s necessary to help the rest of the citizens of Iowa,” he said. “We take that to heart and we try to serve the entire state. It’s a very strong feature of everything that we do.”

The new budget also includes about $200,000 more than the center’s allocation last year.

The additional funding likely will be used to help cover expenses for projects already underway, Krajewski said.

One such project includes the installation of more than 100 sensors on bridges around the state. Each sensor has a cell phone and data plan that must be paid for monthly, Krajewski explained.

He said that unlike a lot of research that is complete once a paper is published or results are found, work at the flood center is usually ongoing.

“We have developed and now maintain systems that more and more people rely on, so that increases the cost of operation,” Krajewski said. “It costs a little more to operate our systems.”

The center has an annual budget of about $4 million, with other funding coming from state and federal sources, including the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Science Foundation, among others, Krajewski said.