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Davenport Takes Unnecessary Risk with Construction Permit PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Editorials
Wednesday, 24 May 2006 00:23
In the upcoming weeks, it is my intention to inform readers of the extremely disturbing realities behind the City of Davenport’s uncomprehensive issuance of a Floodplain Construction Permit to the Isle of Capri (IOC) for its proposed 11-story, city-block-wide casino hotel along downtown Davenport’s riverfront.

The most critical issue of all is the potential for substantial damage to property and businesses upstream of the project site due to probable increased levels of flooding. IOC’s engineers, Stanley Consultants, claim this increase will not occur to any significant degree. It bases its conclusions on a supplemental hydrology analysis submitted to the city after the public raised concerns about the accuracy of its original study, citing erroneous assumptions on Stanley’s part in arriving at its conclusions.

If it had not been for Davenport’s own Bill Ashton of Ashton Engineering, no one would have been the wiser, and the city administration would have proceeded blindly. Ashton, a 30-year-plus veteran in engineering with extensive experience on issues directly related to flood mitigation on the Mississippi River, submitted his own preliminary hydrology study that refuted Stanley’s conclusions, showing that flooding would increase beyond acceptable tolerances if IOC were allowed to build its casino hotel as presently configured. Included in the casino schematics is a 10-foot-tall floodwall along both Brady and Perry Streets, both of which will extend from the casino facility across River Drive, north all the way to Second Street.

These demountable walls are designed to protect the casino from flooding by blocking floodwater on all sides, but in doing so will ultimately displace the floodwater, causing it to back up onto properties upstream as far as the Davenport’s East Village. Stanley claims this increase in floodwater to upstream properties would be negligible. Ashton claims otherwise, stating that the high degree of exposure to liability for the city, IOC, and Stanley should damage occur as a result of such projected increases in flooding is reason enough to revisit possible alternative locations for this project.

At a minimum, one would hope that the City of Davenport would err on the side of caution – if not out of a sense of stewardship or its fiduciary responsibility to neighboring property owners (recall that IOC does not own the property it is building this hotel on; it is city-owned land), then for sound fiscal reasons or the notion of limiting financial risk.

But once again, the City of Davenport defies all logic, deciding to take the risk that Stanley, the hired gun for the casino, is right, and that Ashton, with no vested interest other than a deep concern for Davenport, is wrong. Who would you place your confidence in if this were your decision? More importantly, which analysis would you expect your city leaders to give the most weight?

The recent supplemental hydrology study submitted by Stanley does not comprehensively resolve the issues brought forth by Ashton and the public. The supplement can best be described as a one-dimensional response to a two-dimensional problem. City Engineer Pat McGrath signed off on Stanley’s conclusions, but suggested the city get an indemnifying clause from IOC in case Stanley is wrong. How’s that for a vote of confidence? (It should be noted that City Engineer McGrath conveniently retired last Friday, May 20.)

The bottom line is that the city administration failed us again. So it is up to the public to mobilize and stop this insanity once and for all. As a downtown property owner, I can tell you that nothing gives Davenport’s city administration the right to assume such high risk against its community’s property owners. Heaven help the mayor and aldermen when it comes time for them to stand up on this issue. And make no mistake: That time is coming. Watch for upcoming issues to learn how you can help protect Davenport’s future against this dangerous project and the ongoing reckless governance that defines many of Davenport’s city leaders.

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