CEDAR RAPIDS — Investing in flood protection is a top priority for the U.S. House, Rep. Abby Finkenauer said Tuesday as she toured the Cedar Lake Loop trail in Cedar Rapids.
“I know there are some creative things we can do, whether it be EPA grants or trail project grants,” Finkenauer said of the area around Cedar Lake. “There’s a lot we can do, and I’m excited to be at the table and be the voice for this lake project in D.C.”
Such investments, the Democrat said, “are not supposed to be Democratic or Republican issues.”
The CONNECT CR project envisions restoring the 100-acre lake just north of downtown and connecting it and the trail around it with a new pedestrian bridge over the Cedar River between Czech Village and the NewBo district.
The city has committed at least $5 million to the project, as has the Hall-Perrine Foundation. Project leaders also have approached state and Linn County leaders for support, and private fundraising is ongoing.
On Tuesday, Cedar Rapids City Council member Dale Todd, long an advocate for reviving the lake, suggested to Finkenauer the federal government also could play a role.
“There are numerous opportunities for the federal government to partner with the city in this project,” he said, “whether it’s EPA money, federal trail money, infrastructure grants — and flood protection here is going to be critical in stopping the river from backing up and depositing sediment into the lake during flood events.”
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The city is close to assuming ownership of much of Cedar Lake, once a cooling pond for an Alliant Energy coal-fired power plant,
Todd said the area around the lake soon will get “a face-lift” — including flood protection, improved trail pavement and improved greenery and vegetation.
Besides seeing Cedar Lake, Finkenauer on Tuesday toured bridge and flood infrastructure projects in Dubuque, Independence and Waterloo. In Waterloo, she also visited Lowell Elementary, where the school roof collapsed under heavy snow last month.
Finkenauer, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said flood protection is “the No. 1 priority” for her constituents.
The 1st District in northeast Iowa, which Finkenauer represents, has “a lot of natural resources — and with that comes responsibility, and with that comes investments that are needed,” she said.
“As flooding continues and the risk of flooding continues to exasperate every year we put this off, the need for these projects continue to be top of mind.”
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