Harkin Visits Area to View Flood Damage

JUNE 30TH, 2008 | Harkin for Senate

By MATT MILNER | Courier Staff Writer

Read the original story at The Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — Sen. Tom Harkin showed up in Ottumwa on Sunday to view the still-swollen Des Moines River.

Harkin is on a multi-city tour of disaster areas. They’re not hard to find in Iowa right now. Of Iowa’s 99 counties, 83 are declared state disaster areas. Many of those have also received federal designation.

Ottumwa, where the river is still at more than 16.5 feet, was the third stop after Parkersburg and Oskaloosa. Levees and sandbags controlled the river within Ottumwa city limits, but there are some hard-hit areas just outside town.

Harkin stood for several minutes by a pump in the Market Street parking lot, where a huge mound of sand still sits ready for bagging should the river defy expectations and rise again. Public Works Director Larry Seals had a specific request for the senator’s help.

The pumps move water out of the sewers, since the overflows on the river are shut tight to keep water from backing up into them. The city is in the middle of a major project to update and separate the city’s sewer system, and Seals told Harkin that some of the upgrades could remove the need for the pumps that are now scattered around Ottumwa.

The project relies heavily on state and federal funding. That’s where Harkin comes in.

“If there’s any way we could do just a $5 million project ahead of schedule,” it would help, Seals said.

“Make sure I get the figures on jump starting the storm sewer project,” Harkin said, turning to his aide. “Another thing I’ve just got to be sure to put into the mix.”

Harkin spent a few minutes speaking with area officials, including members of the Ottumwa City Council, Wapello County supervisors, and the mayor of Eddyville before getting into a city bus for a tour of the flooding. He said it’s a very different picture than in 1993.

Still, he said, “Ottumwa dodged a bullet.”

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