"The Summer 2011 Missouri River Flood Fight to Protect the City of Council Bluffs, IA"

2012 Association of State Floodplain Managers Annual Conference, San Antonio, TX
May 23, 2012
By Barry Meyer, PE

The 2011 Missouri River Flood Fight was unprecedented in the duration of the river elevation above flood stage (29 feet local datum) due to sustained historic releases from dams upstream of Council Bluffs, Iowa. These upstream releases were predicated by the large quantity of snowmelt that occurred late in the season and above average spring rainfall within the Missouri River basin (including tributary basins). The Missouri River at Council Bluffs remained above flood stage from June 1 to September 10, a record duration of 101 consecutive days. From June 22 to August 30, the city was on Alert Level 1 status that required citizens within the flood zone to be prepared to evacuate if an evacuation notice was issued. The potential area of flooding encompassed the entire western half of the city, with potential impacts to over 25,000 residents.

The city of Council Bluffs is provided flood risk reduction by 28 miles of federal levees that are maintained by the city as the local sponsor. These levees lie along the Missouri River and two creeks that penetrate the city's interior. This is a considerable length of levee for a city of approximately 62,000 residents.

Although there are were many facets of the summer 2011 Missouri River Flood Fight, this presentation focuses on the levee monitoring, assessment and repair activities required to maintain levee integrity during this historic event. These activities were accomplished by the untiring efforts of a diverse group of local, state and federal agencies, and consultants to meet the daily and hourly challenges to keep the Council Bluffs protected. A key to success was the establishment of a consistent daily practice of levee monitoring with the Iowa National Guard and other trained personnel, evaluating suspected problems with levee assessment teams in concert with the Omaha District USACE, and repairs implemented by city workers, city contractors and USACE contractors.