CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart has been invited to meet President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday to discuss the city’s flood infrastructure needs, city officials announced Friday.
The delegation will include the newly sworn in mayor and City Manager Jeff Pomeranz. Hart called it good news for Cedar Rapids.
“We will be working to help get funding for our protection plan,” Hart said. “(This meeting) is very important for Cedar Rapids. This is our chance to shake money loose we’ve been trying in so many ways to get.”
Hart and city staff credited Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, Rep. Rod Blum, and lobbyist Senator Dave Karnes, who represents Cedar Rapids interests in Washington, D.C., for the meeting with the president.
Hart said he was contacted on Wednesday by an inter-govermental relations staffer at the White House inquiring if Cedar Rapids had a project with delayed funding, stories, and visuals to discuss. Hart was invited to come with a guest, he said.
The meeting will be between 10 a.m. and noon, first with White House staff, followed by a short period with the president, Hart said. A small group of 10-15 others — including a few other mayors and governors — also will be on hand to discuss their infrastructure needs, but Hart said he didn’t know details of the other participants.
“My hope is he says, ‘I love Cedar Rapids. Where is the mayor?’” Hart said of Trump. “And asks me questions about the project ... We’ve got a lot done; we just need help with 10-12 percent of the cost.”
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Hart said he doesn’t expect to leave with a check, but the hope is the Cedar Rapids project is included in the president’s infrastructure plan, which was pegged once at $1 trillion. Hart said he is hopeful the bill includes a set-aside for urban areas in rural states, and he plans to urge the president to first fund projects that have already been approved.
Cedar Rapids officials have been lobbying the federal government for aid with its massive flood control system to protect the east and westside of the Cedar River with flood walls, levees, gates and pump stations. The latest price tag is $750 million and would be built over 20 years. Pieces such as the Sinclair levee have already been installed.
Former Mayor Ron Corbett testified last year before a congressional committee about the flood project, and previously spoke with President Barack Obama about flood-related needs during a visit to Cedar Rapids.
Last year, state officials listed the Cedar Rapids flood system among five top state priorities in response to Trump’s request for infrastructure priorities.
Congress has twice authorized federal aid through the 2014 and 2015 Water Resources Development Act, and in 2016 the Cedar Rapids project was listed among nine top priorities that need to be funded. However, the estimated $73 million has never been released.
Iowa’s congressional delegation also has been pressuring the Army Corps of Engineers to fund the project and re-evaluate its benefit-cost ratio used to prioritize water infrastructure projects.
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