COUNCIL BLUFFS — Wednesday was the record 50th day that the Missouri River has been above flood stage in Council Bluffs, but at least one official believes there could be good news in the coming weeks.
More that 125 people gathered Wednesday at the Holiday Inn at Ameristar to listen to community leaders, state and federal assistance liaisons and utility workers at a flood preparedness workshop sponsored by the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce.
Pottawattamie County Emergency Management Director Jeff Theulen said a recent release reduction schedule announced by the Army Corps of Engineers is a step in the right direction.
The corps said it would cut the volume of water released from the Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota from 160,000 cubic feet per second to 155,000 cfs on July 31, and to 150,000 cfs on Aug. 1.
While better news is coming, he said, the fight is not over.
"It will continue to be a long, hard fight for the next 30 to 45 days, until the water is off the levees," Theulen said. "Then our next fight will be to recondition the levees for the next event."
And costs will continue to climb evenas the river falls.
Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan said Wednesday that the city's costs to battle the flooding would reach $7 million, including three new sewer contracts awarded Wednesday afternoon.
Hanafan said 250 to 300 people were working every day on flood prevention. Council Bluffs public information officer Don Gross said one in seven city workers is working on flood-related tasks.
"The decisions we've made since May 23 have been difficult," Hanafan said. "This battle will change the way we do things in Council Bluffs for a number of years, but I think we will get through it because we have worked together."
Theulen said this is an unusual emergency event. There aren't firefighters or police officers rushing to some catastrophic occurrence, just dozens of public works employees and Iowa National Guard soldiers rushing to keep the levees strong.
The 28 miles of levee surrounding Council Bluffs protect more than 30,000 people.
"These old girls (the levees) continue to protect us," he said. "And if you see a public works employee or National Guard soldier, tell them 'thank you.' I'm awestruck at the work they've done."