MUSCATINE — Mad Creek didn’t look the least bit angry Thursday. Right now, it barely resembles a creek.
But representatives of HNI Corp., the city of Muscatine and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to celebrate the fact that Mad Creek should, for many years to come, stay away from the streets and businesses in downtown Muscatine — even at flood stage.
Over the noon hour Thursday, HNI hosted a ceremony to celebrate completion of the approximately $9 million project that included raising the floodwall two feet, constructing new closures and improving Mad Creek’s channel just upstream of 2nd Street.
Stan Askren, HNI’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, said working along the banks of the Mississippi River is wonderful “until it runs down the streets and into your business.”
Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins, who was born and raised Muscatine, said he recalled many times when, if he’d been speaking where he was during Thursday’s ceremony, “I’d probably be blowing bubbles.”
“Every time the water came up,” the mayor added, “HNI was affected.”
Hopkins said the levee improvement project was an important contributing factor to HNI’s decision to invest about $20 million to expand its laminate plant just a short distance from the creek on East 2nd Street, and Askren confirmed that assertion.
Since the company began building office furniture and its many other products, “we’ve done billions of dollars of commerce right through this avenue,” Askren said. “Because of this investment, we will continue many, many more years of commerce along this avenue.”
As the result of a congressional appropriation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers covered about 65 percent of the cost of the project, while city taxpayers funded the remainder.
“The city of Muscatine has been the ideal partner since the project began” in 2008, said Gary Meden, deputy for programs and project management with the Corps’ Rock Island District.
Meden also praised the work of the project’s two principal contractors. Civil Construction Group of Silvis completed the first phase of the project in October 2010. After that, General Construction Inc. of Bettendorf worked on the second phase, completed last month.
The Mad Creek levee “represented one of our biggest projects recently,” Meden said following the brief ceremony.
The project area, from Geneva Creek to the confluence of Mad Creek with the Mississippi River, is composed of mixed commercial, industrial and residential uses.