Iowa town makes web appeal for money to fix levee that saved it from flood

An Iowa town that was flooded last year is hoping a unique email and video campaign brings a deluge of donations to help fix the levee that saved it.

The town of Hamburg, Iowa, rolled out a campaign on Monday to raise as much as $4.6 million to fix the barrier that stands between it and the unforgiving Missouri River. Last year, the levee was built up an additional 8 feet with the help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and held back waters that reached 17 feet during a 120-day period in which the river swelled. But now, the feds say the extra dirt must either come off or the entire levee must be rebuilt permanently.


“We’re just a little town trying to stay alive here,” Mayor Cathy Crain told “We want to make this permanent so, if there’s another flood, we can protect ourselves and save the town again if we need to.”

The federal edict will be costly no matter which choice the town makes -- removing the dirt would cost $1.3 million, while making the entire levee permanent would cost $5.6 million.

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With help from the town's 1,200 residents, Crain put together a digital appeal, asking strangers to donate to the cause.

“We thought, if we didn’t ask for too much -- just a few dollars -- maybe then people will help, and with the help of [the] rest of the world and the United States we can save our town,” Crain said.

The campaign features a video featuring a dancing flash mob of residents and employs the slogan: “For less than a latte, you can save a town.”

Crain said during the flooding last year, the small town became essentially an island for 120 days, while their levee held back the floodwater and roads into Hamburg were flooded with water.

The state of Iowa has already pitched in $1 million, but the town is out of cash and turning to the outside world for help with the rest, which they’ll need to raise by the time their portion of the levee is completed.

Crain said they’d been raising funds since October, but now are appealing to the rest of the country for help in this last-ditch effort to raise the needed funds to keep her small town alive.

“I’m hoping that somebody will care,” Crain said.

“I’m hoping that it’s worth saving a small town and to keep these businesses here and to keep these jobs here -- I’m hoping that it matters, that we matter.”