Government

Ernst: Army Corps misses reporting deadline for Cedar Rapids flood control project

(File photo) Sen. Joni Ernst speaks with members of the press following a town hall meeting at Sinclair Hall on the Coe College Campus in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 17, 2017. The stop was part of the senator's 99-county tour of town halls, and she heard feedback from constituents about ongoing policy issues in the state and in Washington. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
(File photo) Sen. Joni Ernst speaks with members of the press following a town hall meeting at Sinclair Hall on the Coe College Campus in Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 17, 2017. The stop was part of the senator's 99-county tour of town halls, and she heard feedback from constituents about ongoing policy issues in the state and in Washington. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Army Corps of Engineers has missed a deadline to provide Congress a status update on the Cedar Rapids flood control project, prompting Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Red Oak, to urge compliance as soon as possible in a Feb. 8 letter to the agency’s top officials.

Language in the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, which was signed by President Donald Trump on Oct. 23, called for a report to Congress no later than 90 days after enactment of the law, “summarizing the path forward and timeline to implement the project for flood risk management” in Cedar Rapids, according to Ernst’s letter.

“The 90-day deadline has passed and Congress has not yet received this report,” Ernst wrote in a letter to Assistant Secretary R.D. James and Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite. “I respectfully request this report be completed and submitted to Congress as soon as possible.”

The Army Corps has not responded to Ernst’s letter and did not immediately respond to questions from The Gazette on Monday.

The report should have been submitted on or around Jan. 23, based on the timeline laid out in the law, meaning the report is more than two weeks past due.

Cedar Rapids City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said he viewed the letter as routine.

“The Corps is on schedule at the moment,” he said. “No one has informed me of any delay.”

The letter comes a couple of weeks after a partial federal government shutdown ended. The report would have been due during the partial shutdown, which lasted 35 days from Dec. 22 to Jan. 25.

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Also, the letter comes amid reports of Trump considering declaring a national emergency to pay for a southern border wall. An emergency declaration could put funding for Army Corps projects at risk, if the money is clawed back for the wall.

Ernst’s staff said last month it appeared “criteria are in place that would prevent the Cedar Rapids project from being impacted” by a possible emergency declaration.

In July, Ernst and other lawmakers announced $117 million for the Cedar Rapids flood control project, which includes $76 million as a federal grant and $41 million as a low-interest loan. The flood system project is expected to cost $750 million over 20 years and includes 7½ miles of walls, berms, gates and pumps to protect the east and west sides of the river.

Cedar Rapids and Army Corps officials signed a project partnership agreement in November 2018 signaling the beginning of work. Army Corps officials indicated they had five years to complete the east side portion of the project and vowed to meet the deadline.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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