116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — The city of Cedar Rapids hopes to receive a $50 million boost for flood protection under a bill that passed the U.S. Senate Thursday.
Senators voted 93-1 to pass the 2022 Water Resources Development Act. The biannual packages authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to carry out water resources projects and includes key measures secured by Iowa Republican U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley to update Cedar Rapids’ flood system and a levee in the Des Moines area.
The bill could unlock federal dollars for flood protection on the east side of the Cedar River — which would allow the city to accelerate work on other segments of the system.
Ernst is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and proposed language that would reconcile the Army Corps’ flood mitigation project with the flood control system master plan adopted by the Cedar Rapids City Council to enhance flood protections.
“This important bipartisan bill will benefit Iowa communities while protecting taxpayer dollars,” Ernst said in a statement. “I appreciate Senator Grassley’s continued partnership in securing key priorities for our state and am glad to see it one step closer to becoming law.”
Grassley, in a tweet, noted Congress will need to reconcile differences with a previously passed House-version of the legislation “quickly” so that it can become law and Iowa communities can move forward. But the differences to be reconciled aren’t pertaining to Cedar Rapids’s language, according to Rob Davis, city flood control program manager.
While the bill does not appropriate any money, it provides a key step forward toward getting funding, said Davis.
Cedar Rapids city officials estimate it could unlock another $50 million for flood control.
“It’s a really good development today, but we don’t know how long the next step could take,” Davis said.
Congress authorized construction of the city’s east-side flood control system in 2014, but it wasn’t until 2018 — 10 years after the 2008 flood — that federal lawmakers actually allocated the money. So the funds resulting from Thursday’s Senate vote could come later this year, or it could be a couple years from now, Davis said.
Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz called Senate passage of the bill “a major step as we continue to provide flood control and protection to our community.”
“We appreciate the tremendous support we’ve received from our senators, and look forward to and anticipate support in the House of Representatives,” Pomeranz said.
The bill also extends the scope of a study on harmful algal blooms so that the Upper Mississippi River and its tributaries are included in the study. Such blooms occur when colonies of algae grow out of control and produce toxic or harmful effects on people, fish and birds.
Currently, no watersheds within the Upper Mississippi River Basin, including the Des Moines River watershed, are identified as “focus areas” within the authorization.
The Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District, has observed algal blooms and a class of toxins at levels above that recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for recreation within reservoirs.
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