Government

Iowa flood disaster not over 'by a long shot'

Grassley bluntly questions Army Corps priorities

Hamburg, Iowa, is inundated with floodwaters as seen in this March 18 aerial photo provided by the Army Corps of Engineers. (Ryan Hignight/Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District)
Hamburg, Iowa, is inundated with floodwaters as seen in this March 18 aerial photo provided by the Army Corps of Engineers. (Ryan Hignight/Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District)

DES MOINES — Iowans continued to assess spiraling flood damage Monday while keeping a wary eye on the skies and rising rivers as forecasters predicted more rain in areas already severely under water.

“Not all of the snow has melted up north, so this is not over by a long shot,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig. While much of the flood damage in Iowa is in western and northern areas, “we need to be paying attention in all parts of the state.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds sent top aides Monday to southwest Iowa to meet with local and federal officials to discuss how to repair levees that have been breached along 245 miles of the Missouri River. She said Iowa must take a regional approach with Nebraska and Missouri to deal with this year’s flood disaster.

Last weekend, President Donald Trump granted Reynolds’ request for federal assistance in dealing with a growing disaster. Reynolds initially asked the federal government for help covering an estimated nearly $1.6 billion in damages caused by widespread flooding that has inundated farms, roads and businesses.

A “bomb cyclone” that struck the Midwest earlier this month triggered flooding in three states, resulting in a death toll that claimed lives and livestock.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Monday the flooding has caused tremendous damage, with at least 56 of Iowa’s 99 counties in line to receive emergency aid under the presidential declaration. He pointed to preliminary damage estimates of $214 million to agriculture, $481 million to homes and $525 million to levees.

“We have a long road to recovery from the floods of 2019,” he said in remarks delivered Monday, telling his Senate colleagues the road “will be long, grueling and at times, gruesome but I am confident the grit and resilience of Iowans and their fellow Midwesterners will prevail.”

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Reynolds and Grassley expressed concern about working with the Army Corps of Engineers to improve communications and coordination in the three-state region hard hit hard by flooding.

“We don’t have a lot of time; we’ve got to figure out how we do this differently,” Reynolds told Statehouse reporters.

Grassley took to the Senate floor with a blunt call for the Corps to make flood control along the Missouri a priority.

“It seems to me that misguided decisions and misplaced priorities have eclipsed common sense,” said Grassley. “Perhaps a good scrubbing of the Master Manual may help clear wax out of bureaucratic ears that haven’t gotten the message: the No. 1 priority of the Corps should be flood control — period.”

Naig said part of the recovery process for his office is working through the various federal and state disaster declarations that carry different requirements and criteria, as well as varying circumstances affecting cropland, crop storage and livestock.

“For our farmers who are impacted, the best advice that we can give at this point is go in and visit with a USDA service center. Everybody’s situation is a little bit different — how you’ve marketed your grain, what your insurance coverage is — so it’s hard to say with a broad brush just how every individual producer would be impacted,” he noted.

Naig said it was difficult for him to imagine that 2019 will approach “any sort of a normal planting or growing season” for the tens of thousands of acres of farmland are under water.

On Monday, Reynolds added three counties — Chickasaw, Hamilton and Mitchell — to the list covered by a state disaster proclamation.

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Residents in the following counties are eligible to apply for the Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program, according to the state:

• Butler, Cerro Gordo, Clayton, Hancock, Harrison, Humboldt, Ida, Iowa, Kossuth, Mills, Monona, Montgomery, O’Brien, Pottawattamie, Sioux, Webster, Winnebago, Winneshiek, Woodbury, Worth, and Wright in response to flooding and severe weather beginning March 13. The application deadline is April 29.

• Adair, Bremer, Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay, Dallas, Dickinson, Emmet, Fayette, Franklin, Fremont, Guthrie, Hardin, Plymouth, and Shelby in response to flooding and severe weather beginning March 13. The application deadline is April 29.

• Crawford, Delaware, Page, Palo Alto, and Tama in response to flooding and severe weather beginning March 13. The application deadline is May 2.

• Audubon and Marshall in response to flooding and severe weather beginning March 13. The application deadline is May 6.

• Appanoose, Black Hawk, Cass, Davis, Lucas, Madison, Mahaska, Marshall, Monroe and Union in response to flooding and severe weather beginning March 13. The application deadline is May 6.

The Iowa Individual Assistance Grant Program provides grants of up to $5,000 for households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level or a maximum annual income of $41,560 for a family of three. Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food and temporary housing expenses.

For more information visit floods2019.iowa.gov.

l Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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