50 Ways to Fight the Flood

Some folks here want to build a wall. I don’t think that’s the answer – it just sends the problem to the next community and screws them that much more. But we can’t keep going the way we have been. It’s unsustainable.

I’m talking about the flooding in downtown Davenport and Moline that’s inundated several small businesses, effectively shutting down their daily operations and leaving owners with a huge mess to look forward to. Why, what did you think I meant?

Had the Mississippi crested at around 20 feet as was predicted, the temporary barriers would have held. The people who plan for these things, however, have never heard of Murphy’s Law. Nature doesn’t care about our plans, and the river topped out at over 21 feet, filling basements and first floors about as fast as merchants could rescue their wares.

All told, the flooding has effected over a dozen locally-owned and -operated businesses. This includes 501(c)3 non-profit QC Co Lab and Dress for Success QC. The Half Nelson was open for about a minute before they were flooded out. This was a beautiful space, as was Roam, an inspired café-bar we only got to enjoy for four months. Bootleg Hill Meadery, and EXIT Realty Fireside are family-run, while La Finca is the go-to for Mexican meals and groceries.

Abernathy’s is my niece’s favorite store. It’s where she bought her minidress with taxidermied animal print. There’s no other place like it. Anywhere. They are incredibly talented and creative people, and it’s terrible that circumstances have barred them from sharing their gifts.

Front Street Brewery is a QC institution, and Great River Brewery’s front patio is the meeting place all summer long. Trash Can Annie’s and Major Art and Hobby have both been downtown for decades while Ragged Records has cemented itself as a destination for music lovers of every breed.

Mary’s on 2nd, Java Java Café, Ruby’s, Paradigm, Lamrim Kadampa Buddhist Center, Dam View Inn, Bucktown Center for the Arts, The Diner, Antonella’s Pizzeria II, Fresh Deli by Nostalgia Farms, Milltown Coffee, Señor Julio’s – all of these spots have either lost income or equity. Even River Music Experience and Redstone Room got hit, the Mississippi creeping into their basement storage. At the moment of this writing, volunteers are down there scrubbing floors. But some of the damage will need professional help, which requires funding.

While I’ve been unable to locate an official report, local media reports damage in excess of $10 million. That’s ten thousand thousands. Or a hundred hundred-thousands. Or a billion pennies. However you visualize it, it’s a lot. Local and federal governments aren’t going to part with that kind of cash easily, so it’s up to us to help our friends who need us now – not four years from now or however long it takes the paperwork to push through. (Did you know the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund still has 19,000 claims pending? That’s about half of the total number of claimants.)

You can help any number of ways. First, hit up some of the benefit shows coming up in June organized by the area’s biggest names in entertainment. Flood Fest is June 7 at the River Center. Tickets are $25, which is a steal for an event of this scope. While the concert line-up hasn’t been announced as of this writing, Moeller Nights appears to be taking the wheel booking acts. That means we can look forward to quality performances from established artists as well as rising stars. Flood Fest will also include vendors booths for the businesses effected by the flood, so you can donate directly to your favorite stores.

All other proceeds from Flood Fest will go to the Grow Quad Cities Fund – Iowa, a 501(c)3 with a “mission is to improve the general economic well-being of the Scott County area and the greater Iowa Quad Cities area.”

On the opposite side of the river, the Big Bird Bath Benefit Show is on June 14 at Rozz-Tox. This show is a true grassroots effort, organized by Goldbird Recordings and area superstars like Condor & Jaybird, The Golden Fleece, Sunshrine, and QC adoptees Harakiri. I’m especially excited to see The Fantastic Plastics. The Gorgonites and Faintlife currently round out the lineup, though additional performers are a very real possibility. Tix for this event are only $8, but no one’s going to turn you down if you want to pay a $10, $20, or $500 entry fee.

If you can’t make it to either of these benefit shows, stop in at Baked Beer & Bread Co. every Friday this summer, where a percentage of their profits will go toward flooded businesses. On Mondays, stop at Armored Gardens, where for the next six weeks they’ll set aside 50% of the bar’s take and 100% of tips for flood relief efforts.

Be on the lookout for other local operators to follow suit, as pretty much everyone knows someone who is struggling against the deluge.

Someone’s even printed tee shirts with the phrase “Come Hell or High Water” and is selling them at multiple locations for about $20. Pick one up at have a memento of the flood that topped 1993’s record.

This is from the 2008 flood. NBD by comparison.

Other people helping include the Salvation Army, Living Lands & Waters, and the Downtown Davenport Partnership. You can also sign up to volunteer with the Scott County Emergency Management Agency. It’s like FEMA but just for the county. That’s probably not a selling point.

Dasha Denger Photography has a page that details how you can help, and it probably (definitely) has more information that is not listed here.

In fact, there’s more to do than we’re even aware of, so check Google, Facebook, and the pages linked above for more opportunities. Most importantly, you can keep on the City of Davenport to find a reasonable solution to annual floods. Get creative. Like this:

The city of Chicago was built on a marsh. In the early 1800s, city officials noticed that their buildings were sinking… into Lake Michigan. This raised concerns about flooding, the prospect of which displeased the many merchants with stores along the lakefront. Sounds familiar.

They spent a good decade or so searching for solutions before settling on an idea you might think came from a pre-schooler. They just jacked the city up five-to-ten feet (it varied from site to site). Seriously. In the 1850s and 1860s, engineers used hydraulic jacks and lifted each building and slid a floating foundation underneath, thus redistributing that building’s weight as the marshy land beneath it shifted.

I’m not suggesting that as a solution here, per se. This area doesn’t have the funds to raise the Peterson Paper Building, for example. But the city of Davenport could raise the roads and sidewalks around it, transforming it from a four-story building to a three-story building with a sub-basement. The pavement on Second Street already looks pretty shitty anyway.

It may not be an easy way to fight rising waters, but it would be a lasting solution – one that would leave enough riverfront to naturally alleviate some of the flooding. Is that stupid? It sounds kind of stupid, but so does a pet rock. That idea made a million dollars in its first year.

I challenge engineers the world over to come up with something better. I don’t have a million dollars to give you, but I will write a glowing report about your personhood that you can show to potential employers and romantic partners for the rest of your life.

Finally, the Freight House Farmer’s Market has relocated to 600 West Fourth Street. It’s the parking lot of the City Assessor’s office, across the street from Café Marie. They’re still doing Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday evening markets. For many vendors, the farmer’s market is their only storefront. When it floods, people tend to stay away from downtown. These vendors are losing income, too.

Did I forget anything? Post it in the comments below, and I’ll add it to the list.