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Ernst presses Army Corps officials for action on Cedar Rapids flood mitigation

Senator: Don't 'overlook the values of life and property in Iowa

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers has assured Sen. Joni Ernst the agency plans to review cost-benefit issues of flood protection in Cedar Rapids to determine what opportunities exist to fund a flood wall in the city.

“Overall, it was a productive meeting with the Corps,” Ernst said after meeting with Lt Gen. Todd Semonite, the Corps’ chief of engineers, earlier this week. “They assured me they will be following up with me by the end of January.”

Ernst’s meeting was the latest effort by a member of the Iowa congressional delegation to secure funding for flood protection. Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley have written to Corps officials urging them to prioritize the Cedar Rapids flood mitigation project. Both letters have gone unanswered, she said.

“I emphasized the issues Iowa faces with the benefit-to-cost ratio formula and how it is imperative that the Corps not overlook the values of life and property in Iowa,” Ernst said. “I made clear to the Corps that Cedar Rapids is the second largest city in Iowa and their concerns matter just as much as the concerns of those who live in our nation’s largest cities and along the coasts.”

Cedar Rapids, which has been hit by its two worst flooding events in recorded history in the past eight years, has designed a $625 million flood control system that hinges on getting federal funding. The city sustained $2.4 billion in damages to homes, businesses and public infrastructure after the river crested at more than 31 feet in June 2008. In September, the Cedar River crested at nearly 22 feet, forcing the city to hastily erect a temporary barrier that warded off severe damages.

The city has successfully lobbied to get $70 million 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 Army Corps of Engineers.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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