Even without Congressional earmarks, Corps has money to continue design for Cedar Rapids flood protection

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Army Corps of Engineers has an annual budget with money to spend even without Congressional earmarks.

As proof, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, announced on Wednesday that the Corps will use $3.2 million of its funds in the current fiscal year to continue its design on the Corps’ proposed flood-protection system for much of the east side of the Cedar River at Cedar Rapids. The Corps, Harkin’s office states, anticipates that it will devote another $6 million to the $12-million design phase of the project for next fiscal year with the remainder of the spending coming the year after.

Harkin’s office notes that the Corps’ decision to spend money on the Cedar Rapids comes despite “significant budget limitations” facing the Corps.

“It’s important that the design move forward to not delay improved flood protection for Cedar Rapids,” the senator said.

The Corps embarked on design work earlier this year after the Corps’ Civil Works Review Board approved a flood-protection project for Cedar Rapids. Congress still has to authorize and fund the project.

The Corps’ recommended project now has a cost of $104 million and is limited to a protection system for much of the east side of the Cedar River at Cedar Rapids. The Corps’ recommendation is limited by a federal rule that requires the Corps to recommend an alternative in which the value of the property being protected is at least as much as the cost of the protection.

The city of Cedar Rapids’ preferred plan — which was put together after four months of expert study and public-input sessions in the latter part of 2008 and has been endorsed by two mayors and City Councils of differing compositions — protects both sides of the river at an estimated cost of $375 million.Harkin’s office notes that the city of Cedar Rapids has asked the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Civil Works for a waiver so the Corps can recommend a more comprehensive plan for Cedar Rapids. Harkin has pushed the city’s case, his office states.

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