Iowa researchers try to predict flood damage

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Researchers in Iowa are using sensors to map the state's watersheds, an effort aimed at reducing the kind of flooding that caused billions of dollars in damage in 2008.

Hydrologists with the Iowa Flood Center are working with the Turkey River Watershed Management Authority in northeast Iowa to create geomathematical models of the Turkey River. The goal is to identify where flood mitigation projects would most likely reduce downstream damage, the Gazette (http://bit.ly/VFezpU ) reported.

The project includes mapping the entire 1.1 million-acre watershed, describing land surface and using precipitation and river gauge data.

"This really is the first time that hydro modeling has been done in advance of project implementation to get the highest value for the investment," said Larry Weber, director of Hydroscience & Engineering. The group is a parent organization of the Iowa Flood Center, and both work through the University of Iowa.

The engineering models have been available for years. But hydrologists said new computer technology has made processing the data more efficient.

State Sen. Rob Hogg said the work can reduce the state's vulnerability by reducing peak flows. The Democrat from Cedar Rapids helped establish both the Iowa Flood Center and the watershed management authorities after the June 2008 floods, which caused as much as $10 billion in damage.

"This is the vision for the whole state of Iowa — targeting mitigation projects based on scientific expertise to reduce flood risk," he said.

Weber and his colleagues will present the data and recommendations at a public meeting Thursday. They hope to use it to persuade legislators to secure additional funding for more projects.

Similar data-collecting projects are in place on the upper Cedar, the middle Raccoon and some Des Moines River tributaries. The state has committed about $10 million to watershed management projects. Weber said about $5.2 million will be used on flood mitigation projects identified by the Iowa Flood Center.

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Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazetteonline.com/

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