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Welcome news for Cedar Rapids flood protection
Cedar Rapids’ long effort to piece together the funding needed to complete a flood protection system along the Cedar River in the city’s core got a welcome boost this week.
It was announced that Army Corps of Engineers will provide an additional $180 million for east side protection projects, more than doubling the federal commitment to the project. After spending years lobbying to get the first installment of federal funding, this week’s announcement of an additional $180 million is a remarkable twist in the flood protection saga. June will mark the 15th anniversary of the flood of 2008.
The dollars come from contingency funds still available from the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act. And the award could be a good sign as the city seeks more federal dollars to fill remaining funding gaps. Inflation and other factors have pushed what was once estimated as a $750 million project to around $1 billion, according to City Council member Tyler Olson.
The city has been piecing together funding for more than a decade. It convinced the Iowa Legislature to allow the city to keep state sales tax growth collected in Cedar Rapids to help fund the project. Officials borrowed $264 million, paid back through property tax increases. The American Rescue Plan Act and assorted grants have also provided dollars.
Thanks to the funding obtained so far, numerous protection projects have been completed and others are in progress. More funding can accelerate efforts to complete the entire system of levees, flood walls and other measures to protect the city from the catastrophic flooding seen in 2008.
Time is of the essence. Our changing climate has been drenching Iowa with more precipitation and more extreme rainstorms. The warming Gulf of Mexico is now capable of delivering more moisture into the Upper Midwest, fueling flooding. The current administration controlling the White House believes climate change is a threat and is willing to spend money to prepare for its consequences.
“Extremes are the norm,” said Michael Connor, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, according to reporting by The Gazette’s Marissa Payne.
So any boost in funding for flood protection is reason for celebration, tempered by the reality of funding still needed and not knowing what a changing climate has in store for us.
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