U.S. House approves Cedar Rapids flood wall language

Legislation moves to the Senate

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CEDAR RAPIDS — An amendment directing the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite work on Cedar Rapids flood mitigation has been approved by the U.S. House as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act.

Iowa 1st and 2nd District Reps. Rod Blum and Dave Loebsack, respectively, added the amendment to the legislation to direct the Corps to prioritize the completion of the previously authorized flood damage reduction and flood-risk management project on the Cedar River.

The legislation, approved by a vote of 360-to-61, will go to the Senate, which is expected to approve it yet this week.

Iowa’s congressional delegation has pushed to secure funding for Cedar Rapids’s $625 million flood control system that hinges on obtaining federal funding.

According to the Army Corps, the city sustained $2.5 billion in damages and $2.5 billion in economic loss 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 successfully has 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.

“The bottom line is how many more Cedar Rapids floods will it take before the administration includes this project in their budget?” Blum said on the House floor. “How many times will families have to evacuate their homes? How many times will businesses have to cease their operations?

“How many times will employees be negatively impacted by the flooding? How many times must this happen before the administration includes this project in their budget?”

The legislation also included a provision instructing the Army Corps to conduct a study of areas located in the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois River basins to identify the risks and vulnerability of those areas to increased flood damages. The provisions wills create jobs and have a direct impact on the economy, Loebsack said.

“It is clear that the locks and dams along the Mississippi River are deteriorating and significantly harming the economic development in the region,” he said.

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

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