by Gary Taylor
The second bill to be introduced in the Rebuild Iowa standing committee of the House is HSB 573, pertaining to floodplain management. This legislation is intended to implement some of the recommendations from the Water Resources Coordinating Council’s (WRCC) floodplain subcommittee, charged by the legislature in 2009 to submit policy and funding recommendations that promote “a watershed management approach to reduce the adverse impact of future flooding on this state’s residents, businesses, communities, and soil and water quality.”
At the risk of oversimplification, HSB 573 can be summarized in the following bullet points:
- It makes the 0.2 percent (500-year) floodplain the regulatory floodplain under Chapter 455B of the Iowa Code.
- It prohibits the reconstruction of substantially damaged structures in the floodway (with a few listed exceptions).
- It requires elevation of new structures in the 0.2 percent floodplain 3 feet above the natural ground line.
- It prevents the construction of critical public facilities in the 0.2 percent floodplain unless impracticable. If that is the case, the facility must be designed to be operable in the event of a 0.2 percent flood.
- The bill requires the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), with the U of I Flood Center and ISU, to conduct a study of the effects of agricultural tile drainage on infiltration, surface runoff and flooding, and evaluate the feasibility of seasonal retention.
- It requires the WRCC to develop a marketing campaign to educate citizens about “the need to take personal responsibility for the quality and quantity of water in their local watersheds.”
- It requires IDALS to initiate programs to integrate multipurpose wetlands into watersheds with drainage districts or larger drainage systems.
- It tasks the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), IDALS, USDA-NRCS and the U of I Flood Center to establish a watershed demonstration pilot project for urban and rural areas that maximizes soil water holding capacity from precipitation, minimizes scour erosion and sand deposition during floods, manages water runoff in uplands under saturated soil conditions, and reduces structural and nonstructural flood damage.
- It encourages the establishment of an Iowa chapter of the Association of State Floodplain Managers.
- It directs ISU Extension, in cooperation with WRCC and its member agencies to work with floodplain and hydrology experts to educate the general public about floodplains, flood risks and basic floodplain management principles.
- It requires IDNR and IDALS to work with USDA-NRCS to reassess criteria for conservation practices in NRCS manuals to take into account the effects of climate change.
- It requires real estate disclosure statements to include floodplain location information and whether alluvial soils are present on the property.
- It requires the IDNR to modify permits issued under the national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) to require the mitigation of soil compaction and the replacement of topsoil as part of the construction process.
- It requires DNR to establish criteria to prioritize investments in levees in situations where no other practicable alternative exists, to discourage the construction of additional levees in rural areas generally, and “encourage policies and practices that give priority to reconnecting streams and rivers to their floodplains through modification or removal of existing levees.”
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