Larry Weber, a research engineer with the Iowa Flood Center, and members of his team, will be meeting with the Decorah Planning and Zoning Commission, Wednesday, July 18, at Decorah City Hall in connection with the new Menards being proposed for floodplain near the Decorah Walmart.
The meeting begins at 6 p.m., but Commission members will first discuss a recommendation for sidewalks in the Bruening Addition.
Weber will be presenting advanced hydrological modeling specific to Decorah and the Menards site, according to City Manager Chad Bird.
With the support of the Iowa Legislature, the University of Iowa’s Weber and Witold Krajewski co-founded the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) in response to record-setting flooding in 2008 that devastated Eastern Iowa.
Council member Andy Carlson suggested the city contact the Flood Center regarding the Menards proposal.
Menards has submitted an application for rezoning and a site plan to build a new store in Decorah. Menards will need permission from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Decorah Board of Adjustment to place fill in the floodplain for its proposed 209,500-square-foot store that would include a full storage yard behind the store and a warehouse building.
Commission members will not make a decision on the Menards request at its July 18 meeting, but instead, study the information they receive from the Flood Center and consider taking action at the Commission’s Aug.13 meeting.
Carlson is a member of the Upper Iowa River Watershed Management Authority (WMA) and said he has worked with the Flood Center in the past.
The Upper Iowa River Watershed Management Authority (WMA) was formed in November 2015 and includes a board of directors from cities, counties, soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) within the Upper Iowa River basin who have agreed to work together in order to:
• Assess and reduce the flood risks and improve water quality in the watershed;
• Monitor the federal flood risk planning and activities;
• Educate residents; and
• Allocate monies for purposes of water quality and flood mitigation.

In his dealings with the Iowa Flood Center as a member of the WMA, Carlson said he has been “very impressed.”
Carlson said the Flood Center has the equipment and knowledge to determine the repercussions of constructing a building the size of the proposed Menards and raising the site above the 100-year flood plain.
“I'm really interested to see what they have to say,” Carlson said. “We’re looking for fact-based evidence, not speculation. We’re looking for expert information. We’re not just going to guess at what may or may not happen … we’re trying to be proactive in this situation.”

According to City Manager Chad Bird, any sidewalk recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission will be forwarded to the Decorah City Council.
Bird said he is hoping to have engineers from McClure Engineering of Clive, the firm hired by the city to design the sidewalk system for the Bruening Subdivision, available at 5:30 p.m. for an "open house" prior to the start of the Commission meeting.
A copy of McClure’s plans will be available at City Hall for residents who are unable to attend the Commission meeting. A previous Aug. 1 deadline for sidewalk installation in the Bruening Subdivision has been lifted while the Commission reviews McClure Engineering’s assessment. Possible outcomes of the engineer’s review could include sidewalks on both side of the streets or sidewalks on only one side of the street, Bird said.
“The Commission will consider concepts that are most efficient and practical,” he added.