Western Iowa Town Devastated By Spring Flooding Now Has Money To Build A Berm

Sep 26, 2019

A community in western Iowa is using state flood recovery money to build a berm around town in hopes it will protect people from future flooding. Officials have put their original plan for a protective trail on hold for now.

Back in July, Mayor Scott Mitchell of Hornick sought the support of his community to build a protective walking trail around town – above its 500-year flood elevation. By the time Hornick applied to the state’s flood recovery fund, the idea shifted to a nearly $2.1 million berm around the community.

The plans changed because a recreational structure “didn’t fit the intent of the legislation” that created the state’s flood mitigation fund, said John Benson, Chief of Staff of Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Funding is alloted for projects dealing with flood response, recovery and mitigation, he said.

"We're going to have a big ol' berm around Hornick." -Mayor Scott Mitchell

Mitchell said the berm itself could be used as a nature walk. He still wants a walking trail on top of the berm, but Hornick will have to pay for that itself, according to its application to Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“Or we’ll have to have fundraisers or go out and solicit funds to get it,” Mitchell said.

At a town meeting Wednesday, Mitchell announced that Hornick got all the money it asked for from the flood recovery fund, to build a berm that will be 3 feet above Hornick’s 500-year flood elevation of 1,067.2 feet above sea level.

“There’s a lot more to go, but the big step’s made. We got our money,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to have a big ol’ berm around Hornick.”

“You guys all don’t know how happy I am. You really don’t,” Mitchell said to applause. “You really don’t.”

In March, a "bomb cyclone" brought along a mix of rain, snow and a rapid warming event on top of frozen ground that triggered major to record flooding along the Missouri River. Water overtopped a levee along the West Fork of the Little Sioux River and spilled into Hornick. The town of 220 in Woodbury County was ordered to evacuate before floodwaters came in, and people were out of their homes for four days

"I know in my heart that with the elevations of water we had in March, this berm, if it had been in place, we wouldn't have had the flooding we had in March," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he hopes for the berm to be completed in the next 2 to 3 years. The trail will come when Hornick is “financially stable.”

The Iowa Flood Mitigation Board last week awarded $15 million to communities in western Iowa damaged by devastating spring flooding, to tear down flood-damaged homes and to repair flood protection structures.