Flood 2016

Grassley, Ernst call Corps of Engineers flood protection formula broken, biased against Cedar Rapids

Iowa’s U.S. Senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, are shown in Des Moines Friday morning, Jan. 16, 2015, before Iowa governor Terry Branstad’s inaugural address. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
Iowa’s U.S. Senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, are shown in Des Moines Friday morning, Jan. 16, 2015, before Iowa governor Terry Branstad’s inaugural address. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A “broken formula” for prioritizing flood protection projects seems “biased against smaller cities and towns,” including Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst said in a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers.

In addition to failing to give adequate weight to the public safety risk of flooding, Grassley and Ernst told the Corps its policy of “refusing to fund flood damage reduction and risk management projects in smaller cities and towns can be penny wise and pound-foolish.” Without flood protection, such as the $600 million Cedar Rapids proposal, flooding recurs time and again. That results in millions of dollars spent on temporary protection and billions spent on after-the-fact recovery, the Iowa Republicans argued.

In the case of recent flooding in Cedar Rapids, Ernst and Grassley said the community had to rely on sandbags, HESCO barriers, temporary levees and ring levees around specific businesses and residences to mitigate anticipated flooding. The city spent about $6 million to prepare for the flood and other costs were borne by the Corp and Federal Emergency Management Agency, they said.

“These efforts were successful, yet costly and only temporary,” they wrote. “Wouldn’t it be wiser to build the permanent flood reduction structure once and spend millions instead of spending billions over time in temporary emergency measures?”

Their full letter can be found at http://www.grassley.senate.gov.

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