'No one ever dreamed' was a refrain frequently heard after the second week of June 2008: No one ever dreamed a flood of such magnitude could happen in Cedar Rapids.

But such a flood not only had been dreamed of, it had been predicted by the Army Corps of Engineers - 41 years before it happened. The Corps' report with that dire prediction was released in October 1967.

In the Corps' terms, the Flood of 2008 was a "standard project flood ... produced by the most severe combination of meteorological and hydrological conditions that are considered reasonably characteristic of the drainage basin."

In the case of the Cedar River at Cedar Rapids, the Corps predicted in 1967, such conditions would create a crest "about 12 feet higher than the March 1961 flood."

The March 31, 1961, crest: 19.66 feet.

The June 13, 2008, crest: 31.12 feet.

The Corps' prediction of the land area such a flood would cover was equally accurate, almost exactly matching the boundaries of last year's floodwaters.

"Standard Project Floods are floods of rare occurrence and, on most cases, are considerably larger than any floods that have occurred in the past," the report's authors wrote. "However, Standard Project Floods should be considered in planning for use of the flood plains."

"The Corps does good work, given enough time and money," said Bill Cappuccio, staff engineer in the Iowa Department of Natural Resources' flood plain management program. "What I thought was impressive, in a frightening way, was the discharges they predicted were so close to what occurred."

The Corps study, prompted by a 1965 Mississippi River flood, was met with disbelief by Cedar Rapids officials, according to Jack Riessen, a DNR flood control engineer.

The city and Linn County eventually located a public library, a jail, a police station and a central fire station well within the flood zone identified in the report. City Hall and the county courthouse were already there, on May's Island.

The response - or lack of response - of local governments reflected public reaction.

At a February 1968 hearing on the flood projection, The Gazette reported that residents accused the state Natural Resources Council, the DNR's forerunner, of "cheapening their land to make them available for park acquisition." Another resident said the flood projection was "way beyond reality."

"Hindsight is always 20/20," Cappuccio said. "Cedar Rapids hadn't had any serious flooding before this study for quite a while. It's just human nature."

Don Canney, who took office as Cedar Rapids' mayor two months after the Corps' report was released and who served in that office until 1992, said the city undertook flood-control projects before and during his tenure.

City crews extended riverside levees, installed gates at the Five-in-One Dam, opened the spandrels of downtown bridges to allow a less restrictive flow and excavated the river bottom during low-water periods.

"Some of (the work) was started immediately after" the report was released, said Canney, now 78. "This thing that occurred last year was just a phenomenon."

The local response was marginal, and in the case of riverbed excavation, ineffective. For dredging or excavation to have an effect, "you would've had to dig a heck of a big channel all the way to the Mississippi," Cappuccio said.

Upriver, the reaction was the opposite.

Waterloo, acting after major floods in 1961 and 1965, adopted a comprehensive flood-prevention strategy. The city, like Cedar Rapids, commissioned a Corps of Engineers report and used the result to guide a flood-control program launched in 1972 and completed in 1991.

Funded with $43 million in federal aid and $22 million in local money, the city built 18.2 miles of earthen levee and 1.9 miles of concrete flood wall with gates and storm sewer pumps. Associate city engineer Jamie Knutson said the city spends $50,000 to $75,000 most years to maintain the system.

Now, Cedar Rapids has ordered its own flood protection study from the Corps. The study will include an analysis, balancing the cost of a protection project against the losses caused by a flood like last year's - and the one forecast in 1967.

Knutson said Waterloo's flood walls had a foot or so to spare during last June 11's record crest in that city.

"If we didn't have that, we'd have looked like Cedar Rapids did," he said. "It did all it was supposed to and more."