2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Legislature gives Iowa cities more time to repay flood bonds

The contents of grain silos that burst from flood damage are shown in Fremont County on March 29, 2019.  (Tom Polansek/REUTERS)
The contents of grain silos that burst from flood damage are shown in Fremont County on March 29, 2019. (Tom Polansek/REUTERS)

DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate joined the House in unanimously approving changes to give local governments more time to pay off flood mitigation bonds.

However, the Senate declined to add $25 million to a flood recovery fund in the standing appropriations budget bill.

House File 741 would allow cities to use general obligation bonds for flood mitigation projects and extend from 20 years to 30 the time they have to repay the bonds. It also requires a city using general obligation bonds for flood mitigation to have a licensed engineer verify that the life of the project will be twice the length of the repayment period.

Lawmakers said the change will benefit Burlington, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Coralville, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Dubuque, Iowa City, Storm Lake, Waverly and, perhaps, others in light of flooding in southwest Iowa this spring.

Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, tried unsuccessfully to provide an extra $25 million in emergency state assistance to seven southwestern Iowa counties hard hit earlier this year by flooding. The bill already provides $15 million, but Hogg expressed skepticism that would be enough to deal with what he called “extraordinary” damage.

Senate File 638 bill manager Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Michael Breitbach, R-Strawberry Point, said Gov. Kim Reynolds’ initial cost estimate topped $1.6 billion, but state officials believed the $15 million would be adequate to start recovery efforts that could be expanded when more and better damage estimates become available. He expressed concern that federal agencies might pull back on funding if it appeared Iowa was covering the costs on its own.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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