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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

July 24, 2008

ISU farms, golf course suffer brunt of flood losses

by Erin Rosacker

Flooding at Veenker

Veenker Memorial Golf Course was inundated by nearby Squaw Creek. Contributed photo.

As the water receded after this spring's devastating floods, state agencies and institutions were asked to submit preliminary flood damage reports to Iowa Gov. Chet Culver earlier this month. Iowa State's flood losses are estimated at more than $1.2 million.

The most significant damage was at ISU farms located around the state, accounting for more than half of the damage estimates ($847,500). The main campus sustained minimal damage, but Veenker Memorial Golf Course officials estimated losses at $356,000.

Warren Madden, vice president for business and finance, said those numbers include both physical and revenue losses.

"The revenue losses at the golf course obviously are the green fees," Madden said. "On the farms, it would be revenues associated with the crop losses. Other than that, there aren't any revenue implications in this package of losses."

Farm impact

ISU has 10 research and demonstration farms located outside central Iowa, and several farms and tracts in and around Ames.

"By the nature of farms and agricultural research, it's quite exposed. That makes us vulnerable to these types of events," said Mark Honeyman, who oversees ISU's research farms.

He said 11 different locations reported damage, including six of the outlying facilities. There were no livestock losses. The Northeast Research Farm, located in Floyd County (Nashua), and the Brayton Memorial Research Forest in Delaware County (Delhi) were the hardest hit, as both suffered extensive soil erosion and roadway destruction. Closer to campus, access to the Hinds farm near Ada Hayden Park is being threatened by erosion as the Skunk River eats into the road.

Honeyman said the ISU Horticulture Research Station near Gilbert received more than 16 inches of rain in a three-week period, "an indication of the kind of water the state had to deal with."

Despite a late start to planting and other hurdles the farm staffs faced getting crops into the ground during Iowa's tumultuous spring, he said things are starting to turn around.

"Since mid-June we've had ideal weather conditions," Honeyman said. "Our crops have made progress and caught up to some degree. We're feeling much better about the prospects for harvest."

Lessons learned

The flooding in Ames happened over the final days of May and in early June. Although it was not the magnitude of flooding seen in other parts of Iowa, experience and preparation helped ease the impact of flood waters on campus areas.

"We learned in 1993," Madden said. "And we've been fortunate in 2008 that many of the administrators in the areas that were impacted are still here. We did a pretty good job of managing this, and the damages -- although they're significant -- have not been really serious."

Iowa State Center staff implemented their flood plan by sandbagging culverts under University Boulevard, essentially turning that road into a levee. Workers were prepared to insert a flood gate at the Maple-Willow-Larch residence complex, where a dike was built after the 1993 flood.

Although the water never rose high enough to lower the flood gate or sandbag the east ramp of Hilton, the golf course was inundated.

"They have a maintenance building they probably will have to relocate. It was pretty severely damaged," Madden said. "They didn't think the water could get that high. They were a little surprised."

Who foots the bill?

Madden said the state board of regents' insurance policy includes a $2 million deductible for each school. Since ISU's final tally of losses likely will fall below that, a combination of resources will be used to offset the costs of the damage.

"Because we've been declared a disaster area county, we anticipate that FEMA will eventually reimburse a significant portion of the physical losses if we document the claims," Madden said. "The current policy that has been approved by the federal government, is that they would pay 90 percent."

Some ISU farms have crop insurance, which will help recover costs associated with crop loss, but lost revenue at Veenker golf course will have to be factored into future budgets.

"We probably will have to adjust, and we're looking at how to deal with that," Madden said. "That's one of those cyclical businesses -- we're working our way through that."

Statewide, recovery costs and funding still are being determined. Culver has asked state agencies to be conservative while developing FY10 budgets, and talk has circulated about the possibility of a legislative special session.

"We were fortunate and certainly didn't have the problems our sister institution in Iowa City had," Madden said. "We're back to normal."

Flooded maintenance building

The maintenance building at Veenker Memorial Golf Course suffered significant damage during spring flooding. Contributed photo.


"We learned in 1993. And we've been fortunate in 2008 that many of the administrators in the areas that were impacted are still here. We did a pretty good job of managing this, and the damages -- although they're significant -- have not been really serious."

Warren Madden, vice president for business and finance