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Hamburg gets go-ahead to raise levee after near-decade-long battle

Published: Feb. 10, 2021 at 11:25 PM CST
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HAMBURG, Iowa (WOWT) - Persistence is paying off for a flood-stricken town in southwest Iowa. Work to get the levee raise goes back further — nearly a decade before — than the 2019 historic flood.

David Mincer has been farming in Hamburg and the surrounding area for decades; he knows all too well how fast the Missouri River’s overflow can move. In 2019 it wiped out countless acres of farmland on its way into the town.

“We didn’t have but 48 hours, and there was no time to build up the levee in frozen ground, and muddy ground. And so the water came and flooded the city of Hamburg,” Mincer said.

It was a disaster he said likely could’ve been avoided had they not been forced to lower the levee after raising it to help protect them in 2011.

“At the time, the government had certain rules and regulations that they had to tear it down to pre-flood conditions,” he said. “We tried to raise money to save the levee, but it didn’t work so we had to bring it down.”

“Flashforward nearly 10 years and they now have the money, and new rules. Lawmakers passing a bill in 2016 paving the way for towns like Hamburg to raise levees above Congressional approval; this week becoming the first to take advantage of it,” Mincer said.

It’s going to cost Hamburg roughly $8 million to raise the levees, which includes the cost of studies to make sure it’s safe to do so. Bids on the project will go out soon and work on the levee is expected to begin shortly after the contract is awarded.

“This is truly a milestone for us and for the City of Hamburg more importantly, said Matt Krajewski of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “This is the elevation and protection they’ve wanted for many, many years.”

When work on this levee is complete, it will be raised by another 8 feet — a height this town’s been fighting for.

“We know what we need to protect Hamburg. The farmers, the city people — we know what works,” said Mincer, noting he’s hopeful a new level of protection with help in this town’s comeback.

“We just got the new Dollar General in and a few other businesses moving in,” he said. “And once we have the levee it will give people a lot more assurance their business will not be flooded.”

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