Government

Army Corps official: Cedar Rapids in 'best place' for flood aid

Word could come in a matter of months, he says

(FILE PHOTO) U.S. House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise looks down at the Cedar River as he takes a tour in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
(FILE PHOTO) U.S. House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise looks down at the Cedar River as he takes a tour in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A senior Army Corps of Engineers official in town Wednesday for the 10th anniversary of the 2008 flood declined to say if he thinks federal flood protection aid will ever arrive in Cedar Rapids.

But he said the city’s flood control project is better positioned to get funding than it has been.

“It fits all of the criteria and it should prove to be very competitive,” said Maj. Gen. Richard G. Kaiser, commander of the Mississippi Valley Division of the Army Corps of Engineers. “It is in the best place it could possibly be get funding that we’ve seen.”

Kaiser said officials could know in as soon as two months whether Cedar Rapids is getting federal funding toward it system this time around.

Local officials, along with its congressional delegation of Sen. Joni Ernst, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Rod Blum, have been lobbying hard for years, and perhaps more so in the past six months, to shake loose federal aid that was authorized but not released.

The authorized project factors in $78 million from the federal government, which still is a small portion of the overall $750 million project budget. The flood control system would have 7.5 miles of flood walls, levees, gates and pump station protecting the east and west side of the Cedar River through downtown Cedar Rapids.

Regardless of federal aid, Cedar Rapids faces a $450 million shortfall in paying for the project.

The Cedar Rapids project always faced long odds in getting federal money because of a low score in the cost-benefit ratio compared with other projects. What’s different now is the Army Corps is accounting for the impact on life and safety — not just property — from another flood event. Kaiser called that threat “significant,” which is why he said Cedar Rapids is better positioned.

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Kaiser said he could not identify where Cedar Rapids ranks on the lengthy list of project vying for federal aid, nor would he say how many other projects there are nationally or the Mississippi Valley Division.

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