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Small western Iowa town breaks ground on long-awaited flood protection project

Hornick mayor Scott Mitchell and other community members broke ground on a berm to protect the town from floods on Thursday.
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
Hornick mayor Scott Mitchell and other community members broke ground on a berm to protect the town from floods on Thursday.

The city of Hornick broke ground on a long-awaited berm on Thursday evening.

The small western Iowa town hopes the structure can protect it from future floods – like the one that devastated Hornick three years ago. In 2019, water from the West Fork of the Little Sioux River overtopped a levee and inundated the town of a little more than 250 people.

Since then, Mayor Scott Mitchell has been working hard to make sure a disaster like that never happens again. He said it’s a relief to know the town will soon have a new barrier of protection.

“When I get text now from the National Weather Service about the crick going up, I don't have to worry so much,” Mitchell said. “To me, it's amazing. It's kind of a life changing thing for Hornick because what happened in ‘19 will not happen again.”

Hornick mayor Scott Mitchell and community members broke ground on a long-awaited berm construction project on Thursday.
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
Hornick Mayor Scott Mitchell and community members broke ground on a long-awaited berm construction project on Thursday.

The berm will be built three feet above the town’s 500-year flood elevation level. Mitchell said the town first began discussing the need for a berm after flooding in 1996. But, the project wasn’t possible until the Woodbury County town was awarded $2.1 million in state flood recovery funds after the 2019 flood.

Community members and Mitchell alike beamed with pride as they broke ground on the much-anticipated project at the city park. Mitchell said the effort was only possible through help from city council members and residents alike.

“We don’t need gold shovels in Hornick to do this,” he said as he scooped up the first piece of dirt from the ground. “Congratulations, we’re building a berm!”

"It's kind of a life changing thing for Hornick because what happened in ‘19 will not happen again.”
Scott Mitchell, mayor of Hornick

Former U.S. Rep. Steve King, who spoke at the groundbreaking, said he saw the community pull together in the wake of the disaster to protect their town.

“It's a well oiled machine of volunteers here that put out everything to save this town from the flood that came in and put the solution in place to prevent it for the next time.”

Construction on the berm will begin in July. Mitchell predicts the project will be finished by the fall.

Kendall is Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA.