Law signed by Obama urges Corps to complete Cedar Rapids flood wall

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Legislation urging the Army Corps of Engineers to help fund Cedar Rapids’ flood control project has been signed by President Barack Obama.

Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation into law Friday.

His signature on the bill is the culmination of an effort by Iowa’s U.S. House and Senate delegation to prioritize a decision on the city’s $625 million flood control system that hinges on obtaining federal funding.

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst approved of the signing.

“As I have made clear, the Corps must fulfill their obligation to assist in completion of this project to protect the people of Iowa from another disaster. Now, this law will direct the Corps to do so in a timely manner,” she said in a statement Monday.

According to the Corps, Cedar Rapids sustained $2.5 billion in damage and $2.5 billion in economic loss from the 2008 flood.

The city successfully lobbied to get $70 to $80 million authorized by Congress for the flood wall, but the money never has been allocated in the federal budget or released by the Corps.

Wording the Iowans added to the legislation directs the Corps to expedite the completion of four already-authorized projects for flood damage reduction and flood risk management around the nation, including the Cedar Rapids project.

It was authorized in the 2014 Water Resources Development Act, so there is no need to reauthorize it, Ernst said. This provision does not create a new budget or spending authority. Rather, it emphasizes that the authorized project should be completed.

In addition to the Cedar Rapids provision, the legislation also authorizes a study of levees along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers to evaluate the flood damage risks on a basin-wide basis, authorizes a study of the Dubuque local flood protection project for flood damage reduction and allows the Corps to increase the level of protection when rebuilding a levee if the additional costs are paid by the non-federal interest and the Corps determines it is in the public interest.

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