Public restroom erosion project

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Two consecutive years of unusually high water and the influx of barge waves have caused erosion on the top portion of the river bank behind the public restroom located in the 500 block of South River Park Drive in Guttenberg. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

Two consecutive years of unusually high water, and the influx of waves created by barge traffic have caused the top portion of the riverbank to erode behind the public restroom located in the 500 block of South River Park Drive in Guttenberg's downtown district. 

This past spring, community members reported the problem to city workers who investigated the public restroom's stability and noted cracks in the foundation. 

The riverbank experiences general wearing away along the shoreline, but high water has caused the erosion at the top of the bank behind the public facility. 

City Manager Denise Schneider told The Press, "We can't be sure that the river bank corrosion caused the existing cracks. City workers were not in the habit of routinely checking the bathroom for structural damage. After we became aware of the situation we began looking into repair options." 

She added, "We are working with Veenstra and Kimm, an engineering firm from Dubuque, which is also handling our waste water project." 

Embankment restoration

The city is considering a restoration project that will repair the riverbank to its pre-flood condition. The project may receive funding from FEMA and the state of Iowa. 

Schneider said, "FEMA could pay for up to seventy-five percent of the project, with the state chipping in another ten to fifteen percent." 

She explained, "If we repair the bank and leave the restroom in place we will have to use measurement tools to ensure the integrity of the facility. The project has an estimated cost of about fifty to one hundred thousand dollars, which would include engineering fees. We will have a better idea on the costs as soon as we receive project specifications and cost estimates from the engineer." 

Piling project

Another option the city had to consider was a piling project. The city manager explained, "A piling project would pretty much guarantee the restroom would stay permanently stabilized but at a very high cost. The pilings would have to be installed from the river and would be considered a mitigation project, which FEMA may not be able to support financially or approve funding for, as their funding is low due to other natural disasters."

Schneider added, "We did soil borings and all we found was sand, and more sand. There is not a stable base in that project area. The cost would be unreasonable. We could tear down the restroom and rebuild it somewhere else for much less money than doing the piling project. " 

At press time the city is waiting for approval from FEMA to proceed with the restoration project.

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