Grassley vows to continue pressing for flood protection

'One-size-fits-all approach doesn't work'

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DES MOINES --- U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley applauds Eastern Iowa’s response to heavy flooding and promises to press federal agencies to prioritize more flood-prevention projects in high-risk areas like Cedar Rapids.

Grassley on Wednesday discussed the flooding in Eastern Iowa and the federal government’s role in flood prevention during his weekly conference call with Iowa reporters.

“It’s a great relief to the people of Eastern Iowa and Cedar Rapids in particular that the flooding wasn’t as severe as it could have been,” said Grassley, recalling some of the worst-case scenario predictions he heard while in Iowa this past weekend. “Tremendous credit goes to the people in each community who worked so hard to put up barriers and evacuate homes as needed.”

Grassley said he will continue to urge federal agencies, in particular the Army Corps of Engineers, to prioritize flood mitigation projects for Cedar Rapids, which was devastated by flooding in 2008 and is experiencing heavy flooding again this week.

“I’m working to fix that,” Grassley said.

In a speech on the Senate floor and in a letter to the Corps, Grassley this week asked why the Corps has not proceeded with $73 million in flood mitigation projects approved by Congress in 2014, and pressed the Corps to reconsider how it prioritizes flood prevention projects. The Corps uses a system that assesses the value of protecting an area at risk of flooding by considering public safety, environmental damage and land value.

“I have heard from Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and several other places in Iowa regarding their concerns about how the Corps calculates the benefit of structures and that mitigation and future savings is not a strong factor in the determination of flood risk management,” Grassley said Monday during his floor speech. “I recognize that this is a complex issue and that the Corps rarely gets enough funding to operate and maintain what it owns, let alone start numerous construction projects. I also recognize the need to have a rationale on how to prioritize projects when there are scarce resources, and I have been supportive of these efforts.

“However, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work when dealing with flood protection. It is a necessity to more accurately quantify future benefits and the protection of citizens when making benefit-cost ratios. We also need to find a way to expedite these flood projects so it doesn’t take 20 to 40 years to study, design, build, and complete.”

Grassley on Wednesday also pledged to help communities and farmers who will qualify for disaster relief as a result of the flooding.

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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