Flood-prone Iowa town to disappear
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    Padawan Praiser75,000 VHL Life PointsWell-LikedThee King

    Default Flood-prone Iowa town to disappear

    Flood-prone Iowa town to disappear
    POSTED: 9:27 a.m. EDT, September 21, 2006

    ELKPORT, Iowa (AP) -- Within days, tiny Elkport will be wiped off the map.

    It's rare that a 150-year-old community disappears, but the heavy rains that caused Elk Creek to swell and breach its dike in May 2004 were anything but ordinary.

    Within hours, the northeast Iowa town was consumed by floodwaters that left homes under as much as 15 feet of water, prompting a disaster declaration by President Bush.

    "Never in my life did I think we'd get flooded the way we did," said Roger Bolsinger, Elkport's 56-year-old mayor. "The only thing we could do was get people out of town as fast as possible."

    The northeast Iowa town has been deserted ever since.

    Despite efforts to mow lawns, keep weeds down and fly the American flag at the community center, Elkport has the feel of a ghost town.

    Windows in homes and store fronts have been shattered. The walls of the old town hall -- once a fixture for plays, holiday dances and wedding receptions -- seem only a nudge away from collapse. The only sounds are a chorus of crickets and birds or the occasional dog bark or door slamming in the wind.

    "Sometimes we get people who drive through town ... and shake their head in disbelief," Bolsinger said.

    Workers prepared structures for demolition this week. Next week, bulldozers will seal Elkport's fate.

    As many as 27 homes, the old general store and the stone elementary school will be flattened. The historic bank and at least one home must still be cleared for destruction by the state historical society. The future of the church is uncertain.

    Only the community center and baseball diamond will be spared. Residents envision them as hubs for community events and centerpieces of a hoped-for campground.

    "I'd still go back today if I could," said Mary Auwles, who with her husband Steve now lives in a new home on higher ground overlooking Elkport and the Turkey River valley. "It was a nice, quiet town."

    All 86 residents chose buyout
    Like each of Elkport's 86 residents, the couple opted for a federal buyout program. Many residents have built or bought homes within the area, but much of Elkport's elderly population scattered to cities and retirement communities farther away.

    Demolition crews will also target seven homes in Garber, Elkport's neighbor across the Turkey River.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved a $1.6 million buyout in January 2005 for both communities. Property owners in the two towns were paid 110 percent of the pre-flood assessed value. Homeowners were also given a $10,000 relocation benefit, while renters received $5,000.

    Some have criticized the government for taking too long to disperse payments, which in some cases forced residents to pay taxes on land and property considered worthless.

    But Bolsinger said few question the decision to demolish a town built inside the floodplain of three unpredictable, wild waterways.

    Elkport and Garber also were flooded in 1999 when the Turkey and Volga rivers spilled over their banks, the first flood since 1949 when the dike was raised.

    Inside the Elkport/Garber Fire Department headquarters, Bolsinger sifts through a collection of historic photographs he and others are organizing for a scrapbook. Dozens of photographs show Elkport covered in water in 1908 and 1916, then again in the winter of 1922 when ice jams diverted the rivers through city streets.

    "There's a lot of history with this kind of stuff," Bolsinger said. "Most of the people just didn't want to go through it again."

    City Council will still meet monthly
    Though the federal buyout was voluntary, residents and government officials agreed it was the only cost-effective choice. Restoration estimates were steep considering the extent of water damage, and cost and practicality ruled out the option of elevating homes.

    "Most of the people didn't have insurance. So there wasn't access to a lot of different resources for repairs and elevation projects," said Dennis Harper of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division.

    Elkport is not the first Iowa town to be washed off the map. A federal buyout program led to the demise of Littleport after the Volga River flooded in 1999. And in the early 1990s, portions of the central Iowa town of Chelsea were redrawn after the Iowa River spilled over its banks.

    Elkport will live on, residents said. The city is still incorporated and the three-member City Council will still meet monthly.

    "For now, we'll just kind of keep things barely alive," Bolsinger said.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ZeoHalen
    Elkport will live on, residents said. The city is still incorporated and the three-member City Council will still meet monthly.
    The reason for that being?...

    It's gotta be sad to see your hometown literally wiped off the map, but still, there's gotta come a point where you say "enough is enough"; especially when taxpayer and insurance dollars are involved.

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    Wow that's unbelievable. An entire town gone just like that.

    Ghost town now eh.
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