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Concern over the flooding on the Mississippi river: Holding back the water PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lillian Voss   
Thursday, 24 March 2011 08:26

I am Lillian Voss and I am 94 years old. My late husband, Burton Voss (also known as Michael Voss), and I have lived at 4336 S. Concord Street for nearly 60 years. My husband died in 1994. Our house was built above the 100-year flood plain. We experienced all the major flooding along the Mississippi river these past years. My husband fought very hard against the tactics of the Corps of Engineers regarding the water levels of the Mississippi river. With this new threat of major flooding and after reading the article in the QC Times “Ask the Times” titled “River’s high level is a natural one” dated 2/17/2011 (enclosed), I feel I must come forward and again try to expose the tactics of the Corps of Engineers.

Do you realize the Corps of Engineers hold back the water on the Mississippi to artificially raise the river level to 9’ so that the barge traffic can operate efficiently? In holding back this water and not allowing it to escape, the river level is not far from the flood stage when the spring thawing begins in the upper Mississippi valley. This high level of water on the Mississippi makes the flooding in the spring considerably worse. Each spring when a flood is predicted along the Mississippi, I have a friend call the Corps of Engineers to ask them to fully open the dams to allow the water to flow freely and naturally. Each time I would ask they would claim it would not make any difference if they did open the dams. Anyone could see that if you open the dams and allow the water to escape down the river, the water level would drastically drop. This would allow a cushion for drainage for the water coming down the river as the snow melts and the rains fall. You will find my husband’s research information enclosed .

In 1962 over 1000 petitions were submitted to Congressman Fred Schwingal requesting the Corps of Engineers to open the dams. At that time we were facing a major flood as the snow started to melt in the upper Mississippi. Congressman Schwingal had enough influence to order the dams opened. In that year we avoided a major flood. This is certain evidence that opening the dams fully does have an effect or influence on the flooding on the Mississippi. As a result of opening the dams that year, the current of the river increased dramatically as the water level fell. Many barge accidents occurred and the dams were never opened fully again in the following years.

By opening the dams fully this would allow the water level to drop drastically so the river could receive the tremendous amount of snow melting off and the spring rains. Flooding would not be nearly as severe.

A meeting was held with the Corps of Engineers on 3/18/2011. These were the major concerns of Corps of Engineers about opening the dams fully. I expressed my opinion after each concern:

  1. The barges could not operate if the dams were opened fully.

My Comment: There is no excuse to leave the dams closed just to allow the barge traffic to come through when a serious flood is most likely to occur. We The People along the Mississippi have to suffer through these damaging floods. Is the barge traffic more important than preventing a catastrophic flood or at least making it less severe? I believe the barges can operate at a lower water level.

  1. The law states the Corps of Engineers have to maintain a 9’ river channel for the barges.

My Comment: What kind of a person would make up a law that would take superiority over the victims of a catastrophic flood? This is totally irresponsible. Did the barge companies make this law? A law like this would most certainly have an exception with regard to a major flood looming.

  1. By keeping the water level high we are protecting the fish and wildlife. If we lower the water level, we won’t be able to protect the fish and wildlife.

My Comment: How do the fish and wildlife get along when the river is low at other times of the year? Many times in the past 10 years the water gauges measure one or two feet, sometimes not even a reading. How do the fish and wildlife manage then? We are talking maybe one week of low water level, if that long.

  1. These water dams were not constructed for flood control. They were constructed for commerce.

My Comment: At the time of getting support (public opinion and financial), to build the locks and dams, flood control was a major reason as well as commerce. We are not now talking about flood control use. At this time the dams are causing floods, not preventing them. By holding back water to raise the water level on the river, this is contributing to the flooding. Let the water go naturally by fully opening the dams. What harm could it do? We would certainly have a less severe flood.

  1. Fully opening the dams might cause flooding down the Mississippi.

My Comment: If opening the dams might cause further flooding down-river, then why are you saying the dams were not built for flood control. You are damming up the water. Open the last dam first and let the water run and start opening the next dams in sequence as you go north. If you open the dams at the lower locks and dams (the last dam first) and carefully move up the river opening each dam while doing it, carefully timed, not all at once, you should prevent flooding down-river. With careful coordination and planning there would not be any flooding when the dams are fully opened.

  1. Our college experiments show that opening the dams and lowering the water levels would not make any difference on the severity of the floods.

My Comment: It sounds logical to me that if the river is low at the beginning more water can run down the river before the water goes over its banks. In 1962 it did make a difference. They opened the dams, the water went down the river and we did not have a severe flood. A great volume of water would run down the river before it would ever go out of its banks because it would not be restricted by the dams. What harm would it do just to open the dams and let the water run naturally. After all, this was the way it was before the dams were built. We were getting the 100-year floods then. Now we are getting the 100-year floods every three or four years. We are only talking about the dams being opened for one to two weeks, at most, before the full force of the water comes down.

  1. The lower water level will prevent municipalities from getting clean water out of the Mississippi.

My Comment: Iowa American Water Company tells me they can get adequate clean water out of the Mississippi at one and two foot water levels. After all, what did they do when the water level was at the one or two foot readings in the past? Many times in the past years the water level has been below the two foot water stage.

  1. If you can get Congress to tell us to open the dams, we will gladly open the dams.

My Comment: As we were getting ready to close the meeting, this statement was one of the last statements made by the engineers. This statement tells me the Corps of Engineers are not entirely to blame for these dams being closed to hold back the water.

It appears that the barge companies have more power over the Corps if Engineers and our Federal politicians than We The People along the Mississippi river. I must ask- Why is that???

I am calling on our Senators and Representatives to order the Corps of Engineers to fully open all the dams up and down the Mississippi river to allow the water to flow freely for this short period of time. Allow the river level to drastically fall so the river can receive the tremendous amount of water that is now starting to melt off. River traffic must be restricted until the major snow melt is over. Without a doubt, this action would reduce the severity of the flood.

Open the gates and let the river flow naturally as it once did for this short period of time. Try it once, if it does not work, then there would be no need to try it again. What harm is there in trying it? In 1962 it worked.

Sincerely,

Lillian Voss

 
Walcott First PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Phil Roberts   
Thursday, 24 March 2011 08:23

Walcott, Iowa (March 22, 2011) -- Walcott is open for business! That’s the message from Walcott First, an organization formed last November by Walcott Mayor Jim Couper.

Couper said he proposed formation of the new group, a cross section of Walcott residents and business people, as a community development group, not as an economic development group. He said it will be independent and not tied to the city in any way.

Walcott has become a bedroom community, Couper said in explaining the need for Walcott First.

“We have a community where people live, and that’s all they do. We’ve got to be better than that,” he said.

He said his goal is bringing smaller businesses like restaurants and stores to Walcott as opposed to attracting large businesses and industry.

Couper will serve as chairman of Walcott First. He appointed Jason Holdorf administrator and director and Brent Arp assistant director.

Members of the organization have not yet determined how it will be organized from a legal standpoint. First they’re anxious to set some small goals and accomplish them.

Couper said that will provide momentum and “show the community that we are aggressively in place.”

Working with a city entity, the Walcott Vision Committee, to get an attractive Welcome to Walcott sign placed at Main Street and Old Highway 6 was one suggestion for an initial project. Building a skate park for youngsters was another.

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For more information about Walcott First, contact Jim Couper, (563) 284-5096, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or Jason Holdorf, (563) 284-6722, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
Capitol Comments - Week 6 in the Iowa Senate PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck   
Friday, 18 February 2011 16:46

After six weeks of session, the Iowa Senate started debating this week.  Two bills set the posturing stage and had more meaning in messaging than actual content of the legislation.  House File 45 was approved by the Iowa House in the second week of session with a projected cut in state spending of $500 million over three years.  This same bill was passed out of the Senate on Thursday with a projected cut in spending of $10 million over a three year period.  Though many believe this bill is destined for a conference committee showdown, it is more likely the bill is done.  Think of this bill as a form of messaging between the Republican majority in the House and the Democratic majority in the Senate and how they perceive each other’s goals.  True government spending appears in appropriations bills.  Both sides understand a zero line item in House File 45 doesn’t limit actual funding of a program in May.

The second posturing bill came in the establishment of allowable growth for education spending.  After the House previously approved zero percent allowable growth the Senate on Wednesday passed allowable growth at 2%.  Knowing the establishment of an allowable growth rate at any percent in February is superficial to the actual appropriation which the legislature makes in May I asked the Senate Appropriations Chair to explain how we plan to fund education this year at any level. My line of questioning was shut down by the Senate President citing, the state’s future ability to pay is irrelevant to the establishment of a promise to pay today.  This idea makes complete sense, only when you don’t think about it.  Though this bill is destined for a conference committee showdown, only through appropriations will we see how much the state picks up and how much falls on local property taxpayers.

The Senate moved in a positive direction in debate Thursday afternoon when we unanimously approved Senate File 209 which called for the full coupling of the Iowa Tax Code with the Federal Tax Code.  This bill allows Iowa taxpayers to deduct items on their state income tax filings similar to their federal filings. Think of it as a nearly $200 million savings to taxpayers.  Though it does not take effect until you do your taxes next year, it is still a positive move for keeping more money in your hands.

On a side note, the buzz has started over redistricting.  The conference board members are set, census data is out and maps will soon be drawn.  I have not grown as curious or apprehensive about changes as many of my colleagues.  I have no doubt I may lose half my district or even more.  Be proud in the fact Iowa is an exemplar in setting districts; politicians don’t get to make this decision.

Shawn Hamerlinck
State Senate District 42

 
Analysis of House Budget Cuts on Law Enforcement in Iowa PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Friday, 18 February 2011 12:31

Washington, D.C. - February 18, 2011.

This week, the U.S. House is considering a budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2011.  The current funding proposal expires on March 4, 2011.  Analysis released today shows that the budget proposal will have a detrimental impact on law enforcement in Iowa.

Harkin’s full statement on the budget proposals before Congress can be found here.

“Cutting essential law enforcement funding is not the answer,” said Harkin.  “Iowa continues to face a meth problem, with the number of meth labs up 50 percent since 2007.  And, drugs and crime continue to impact our communities.  Cuts to law enforcement will make our streets less safe and our nation less secure.  

“There is no question that the time has come for tough budget decisions, but the smart way to bring down the deficit is for Congress to pursue a balanced approach of major spending cuts and necessary revenue increases.”


Below are some specific cuts Iowa will face in law enforcement if the House budget is enacted.

State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance by the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs (OJP)

The House proposal cuts $250 million from State and local law enforcement assistance by the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs (OJP). If enacted, this will result in significant cuts to essential programs that are critical to ensuring Iowa’s cities and towns are safe and drug free.  Most significantly, this would inadequately fund the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program.

One of the most important uses of this funding is for multi-jurisdictional drug task forces, which help local law enforcement reduce drug-related violent crime and gang activity in our communities.  Nationally, Byrne/JAG funding leads to over 200,000 arrests, over 50,000 weapons seized, and the breakup of over 9,000 methamphetamine labs each year.

Last year over $24 million in OJP grants came to Iowa, supporting jobs for over 90 Iowans who are directly responsible for making our state safer.  In Iowa, Byrne funded drug task forces:

•    Were responsible for over 2,400 felony arrests;
•    Dismantled 275 gangs;
•    Seized over 8,200 illegal firearms;
•    Seized nearly 20,000 kilograms of illicit drugs, like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine;

These successes show we need to continue to support this program, not cut it back.

Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities

The House proposal would cut $50 million for drug interdiction and counter-drug activities. This includes funding for 14 state counter-drug plans and five regional counter-drug training centers, to include the Midwest Counterdrug Training Center (MCTC) at Camp Dodge.  Without this funding, MCTC would be forced to close its doors, and thousands of law enforcement officials would go without necessary training.  Additionally, federal funding for the Iowa Counterdrug Task Force would be cut, effectively shutting down the program.

If this cut were enacted:

•    Nearly 7,000 Iowa law enforcement officials would not receive necessary counterdrug training at MCTC.  
•    State and local law enforcement officials would not receive support such as intelligence analysis and aviation support from the Iowa Counterdrug Task force.  
•    Thirty jobs would be lost at the Iowa Counterdrug Task Force.  
•    Twenty-three jobs would be lost at MCTC.

 
Harkin Announces $5 Million for Iowa Public Transportation PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Friday, 18 February 2011 12:17

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced today that the Iowa Department of Transportation received $5 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Transit Administration’s State of Good Repair Grant Program. Harkin is a senior member of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds transportation initiatives.  The funds will be allocated to local transit agencies across the state as listed below based on a mileage formula.

“These funds will help transit agencies provide safe and efficient transportation for people, especially the elderly and those with disabilities, get to work and around their communities,” Harkin said.

Individual grant recipients are listed below.

Des Moines ($161,020)
2 buses

Fort Dodge ($526,220)
3 buses

Iowa City ($777,150)
3 buses

Sioux City ($345,600)
1 bus

Waterloo ($896,400)
3 buses

Region 1 (Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties; and Sioux counties) ($107,900)
1 Minivan
1 bus

Region 4 (Cherokee, Ida, Monona, Plymouth, Woodbury, and Southern Union Counties; and South Dakota counties) ($112,847)
2 buses

Region 5 (Calhoun, Hamilton, Humboldt, Pocahontas, Webster and Wright counties) ($353,580)
4 buses

Region 6 (Hardin, Marshall, Poweshiek and Tama counties) ($204,180)
1 Minivan
3 buses

Region 9 (Cedar, Clinton, Muscatine, and Scott; and the Illinois Quad Cities area) ($302,950)
5 buses

Region 10 (Benton, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn and Washington counties) ($95,450)
1 Minivan
1 bus

Region 11 (Boone, Dallas, Jasper, Madison, Marion, Story, and Warren counties) ($434,090)
6 buses
1 Minivan

Region 12 (Audubon, Carroll, Crawford, Greene, Guthrie, and Sac counties) ($62,665)
1 bus

Region 13 (Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie and Shelby counties) ($255,640)
4 buses

Region 14 (Adair, Adams, Clarke, Decatur, Ringgold, Taylor, and Union counties) ($125,330)
2 buses

Region 15 (Appanoose, Davis, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lee, Lucas, Mahaska, Monroe, Van Buren, Wapello and Wayne counties) ($195,880)
4 buses

Region 16 (Des Moines, Henry, and Louisa counties) ($73,040)
1 bus

 
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