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Western Iowa Mayor Pitches Walking Trail Flood Control Measure To His City

Katie Peikes
IPR file photo
Hornick, a town of roughly 220 in Woodbury County, flooded in March 2019.

The mayor of a small western Iowa town that flooded last spring pitched his idea for a future flood control measure during a town hall meeting Thursday.
Hornick, a town in Woodbury County, was evacuated for four days in mid-March. Water overtopped a levee along the West Fork of the Little Sioux River, a tributary of the Missouri River, and spilled into the town. Some homesflooded with 4 feet of water.

Hornick Mayor Scott Mitchell says he never wants to see that happen again. His idea for flood control is a raised walking trail around town that could hold back water.

"If it happens again, we probably won't have a town when we're done. And that's the truth. And I don't want to see that." -Hornick Mayor Scott Mitchell

Mitchell asked for support from about 45 people who attended the meeting. He says the time to do this trail is now, before the city gets another major flood.

“Why I say it’s going to be the only time?” he asked. “(Because) if it happens again, we probably won’t have a town when we’re done. And that’s the truth. And I don’t want to see that.”

The top of the trail would sit at 1,069 feet above sea level – 2 feet above the town’s 500-year flood level. 

The lowest point of the walking trail would use 2 feet of fill to get to that 1,069-foot elevation. The trail’s highest point would use 6 feet of fill to meet that elevation.

Mitchell asked for a show of hands to see how many people would be interested in the trail for flood protection. Most of the residents expressed approval. Some people had questions about how the city would pay for it.  

The trail has an estimated cost of $2.5 million. The federal government would fund 75 percent of the cost, while the state of Iowa would fund 10 percent. Hornick is expected to fund 15 percent, or $375,000, which Mitchell said he hopes can be covered with grants.

Mitchell said it could take 2 to 4 years to complete the trail. He’s anxious to get something done for the city.

“I mean every time it rains, I’m worried about what it’s going to do. I watch the creek levels every time it rains,” said Mitchell, speaking with Iowa Public Radio after the meeting. Progress takes time, he said.

“If it takes 2 to 4 years and that’s what I have to worry and then in 4 years, I’m done with it, I’m all for it," Mitchell said.

Hornick officials will have to work with Iowa Homeland Security to show the trail will be a feasible flood control method for the city.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.