Converting Storm Sewer to Creek Helps City Fight Chronic Flooding

Dubuque, Iowa’s flood mitigation efforts were one of 28 projects recently recognized by the EPA

Converting Storm Sewer to Creek Helps City Fight Chronic Flooding

The completion of the Bee Branch Creek restoration has been a critical piece of Dubuque, Iowa's efforts to prevent severe and frequent flooding for the surrounding neighborhood.

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One neighborhood in Dubuque, Iowa, was once especially prone to flooding. Between 1999 and 2011, there were six presidential disaster declarations and $70 million in damage occurred.

But that is no longer the case. Part of the solution proved to be not adding to the city’s stormwater infrastructure but rather removing a portion of it. This past year, the city completed a project in which a 1-mile storm sewer was replaced with a creek and floodplain. That approach now allows stormwater from flash floods to move safely through the area instead of harming the neighborhood’s 1,000 properties. The Bee Branch Creek project also restored aquatic habitat by allowing sunlight to foster the growth of microorganisms needed to sustain fish.

Nearly half of the project’s $60 million cost came through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, thus making it one of 28 projects recently recognized by the EPA for being innovative in either its design or financing. Projects using the State Revolving Fund were eligible for recognition.

The project is part of a long-range flood mitigation plan that is still in motion for Dubuque. To date, improvements have included the addition of two detention basins, converting streets and alleyways to permeable pavement, increasing the capacity of storm sewers, and the Bee Branch Creek restoration, which was done in two phases — the first between fall 2010 and fall 2011 on the lower portion, and the second on the upper portion (the replacing of buried storm sewer with 2,300 feet of restored creek and green space) that started in June 2015 and was completed in July 2017.

The value of the project was on display this year, when a heavy thunderstorm caused minimal problems for the Bee Branch Creek neighborhood. A similar storm in 2002 caused more than $11 million in damage. 

Learn more about Dubuque’s flood mitigation efforts here. has been taking a closer look at some of the 28 State Revolving Fund financed projects recently recognized by the EPA. Check out these stories:

Utility Funnels Federal Funds to Customers’ Sewer Lateral Replacements

Utility Saves Big on CSO Project Financing 


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