First-ever breach of temporary flood barrier sparks new debate over Davenport flood wall

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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - The efforts to keep flooding waters out of downtown Davenport are full force. Sump pumps are running and downtown businesses are working to save what they can and the company who designed the barrier is in town investigating the breach that sent flood waters into downtown.

"We are working with local authorities and organizations, investigating exactly what has happened,” Hesco Group said in a statement to TV6. “Our team are on the ground and we will know more soon."

The Mississippi River reached an all-time record crest level Thursday, surpassing the level reached 26-years-ago in 1993. The city is working with the Hesco Group to determine the cause of the failure. The barrier held back the water for a record number of days.

“For years they have done a good job,” co-owner of Front Street Brewery Tim Baldwin said.

With the first breach ever, the debate over the flood wall has been reignited. Baldwin, whose business is on the river, says he is not in favor of building a flood wall.

"As someone who owns and operates a business on the river and gets to enjoy the view and everything that comes with it, I just don't think it makes sense to me,” Baldwin said.
Most recent analysis finds building a flood wall would cost the city $174 million. That is a factor for Baldwin.

"I still don't believe that it is,” Baldwin said. “When I see the data on the cost of a flood wall vs the cost of this cleanup and the temporary, it just doesn't make financial sense to me."

The city of Davenport said cost is a factor for not having a flood wall. Mayor Frank Klipsch also said eliminating the view of the river is another.

"One of the business owners who has a number of businesses said ‘this is a great community, we love being here and 98% of the time we love the way it looks and how we deal with it’,” Klipsch said.

The Downtown Davenport Partnership said that since 2000, the city has invested $500 million in bringing new life to the area. Kyle Carter, executive director of the Partnership, said whether it is a flood wall or another protection measure, something needs to be done.

"We do need to protect that investment, there is no doubt about that,” Carter said. “The question of how is what everyone argues about."

Other business owners say they agree, that the solution is somewhere in the middle. That includes the owner of Roam, Dylan Steil. The restaurant opened in December.

"I would have to think about a compromise, I think there are semi-permanent ways to do it,” Steil said. "To have beauty, you have to have a little bit of pain. It makes us appreciate the riverfront when it is great."

Building a flood wall in 1969 would have cost $16 million and after the floods of 1993, it would have cost $50 million.