CEDAR RAPIDS — Federal money will give a boost to constructing a portion of the flood control system near Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids.
The city was awarded $1.73 million through the Economic Development Administration to help relocate a water transmission line, according to a Friday news release from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Relocation is needed to reduce the threat of flooding at Quaker and to begin construction of the permanent flood protection structure along the banks of the Cedar River, which will help protect the central business district, according to a project description. The project also will help prevent job loss and provide economic stability for the region, the description stated.
“The Trump administration is committed to not only retaining jobs in this country, but also to creating new opportunities through infrastructure improvements,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in the news release. “I look forward to seeing how Cedar Rapids’ new flood control system will help businesses grow and thrive.”
The grant covers 50 percent of the $3.459 million relocation project. The description sheet estimates the project could help save 442 jobs and leverage $432,000 in private investment.
The EDA grants are awarded through a competitive process based on merit, eligibility and availability of funds, according to the news release. The utility relocation is part of a larger $16 million project that includes 2,000 linear feet of flood wall, a gate for Union Pacific tracks and two pump stations just north of downtown. It is slated to occur over three years beginning in 2018, said Rob Davis, the Cedar Rapids flood control manager.
The wall would begin at B Avenue NE near the Quaker entrance and end south of Cedar Lake, he said. The project was originally planned to happen earlier but it took longer to get agreements with Union Pacific and Quaker than expected, Davis said.
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For Cedar Rapids, it has been slow going to construct an estimated $630 million flood control system to protect about seven miles along the east and west banks of the Cedar River. The city has been working on this since a catastrophic flood caused an estimated $5 billion in damage and loss in 2008.
“We have a number of key projects we are working on and proceeding on,” Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said. “This is one more piece of the overall flood control system.”
A flood control system is being erected to protect the New Bohemia District just south of downtown, an amphitheater that doubles as a flood berm has been built on the west bank, and work is underway to relocate utilities for flood protection in Czech Village. Much more remains.
Cedar Rapids still has hope for at least $70 million in federal aid for the east bank system through the Army Corps of Engineers, which was authorized but has never been allocated.
City officials said while there’s no direct connection between the commerce department grant and money sought from the Corps, the award announced on Friday is a good sign Cedar Rapids remains on the radar at a high level of the federal government.
“That’s how we are going to build this flood protection system: piece by piece,” Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said. “This shows we are on the radar screen of the federal government. Although we haven’t been awarded the federal dollars for east side flood protection, this shows they acknowledge Cedar Rapids has this need and they will help with bits and pieces of it when they can.”
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