News Release from Iowa City Community Development, 8/23/12
The Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded the City of Iowa City a $60,000 Urban Waters Program grant to plan and design a modification to the Burlington Street dam that could create recreational opportunities such as whitewater rafting, boating, and integrating with the Iowa River Water Trail. In addition, the project could improve water quality, fish habitat, and riverbank stability. The Urban Waters Program supports communities in their efforts to access, improve, and benefit from urban waters and surrounding land.
The dam is a low-head (also called a roller) dam — a particularly dangerous type of dam for people on the river, because they are difficult to see from upstream, and nearly impossible to escape. Many drownings have occurred across the state due to low-head dams. In the Iowa City project, the dam would not be removed, but would be modified to make it safer for people to access. It would become part of Iowa City’s Riverfront Crossings District revitalization project.
The EPA has worked closely with the city on numerous environmental partnerships to increase awareness about the value of Iowa’s water resources and the impact of land use along the river. It has provided a market analysis, transit development study, and plans for the Riverfront Crossings District to help outline a vision for redevelopment of underutilized properties south and west of downtown, and to convert floodplain areas into a major riverfront park.
A public meeting to gather input from the community about plans for the river will be scheduled later this year, followed by the implementation of the planning and design study, which would likely get underway next summer. The City plans to apply for additional grants to complement the EPA grant received for the planning and design of this project.