CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa’s top lawmakers say federal funding for the Cedar Rapids flood protection system appears to be shielded from President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, which he asserted allows him to bypass Congress to get money to build a southern border wall.
The city of Cedar Rapids and the Army Corps of Engineers signed a project partnership agreement in November signaling the start of work on an east side flood protection system along the banks of the Cedar River through the core of Iowa’s second largest city. It was a major turning point as the city had been seeking federal relief for a decade following the 2008 flood.
Cedar Rapids was awarded $117 million in federal aid for flood control, which includes $76 million as a federal grant and $41 million as a low-interest loan.
But that money is part of a $13.9 billion spending bill passed by Congress last year to address local flood control projects and the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Wilma. Last month, several national news organizations reported that White House officials specifically pointed to that fund as one the president could scoop money from to build a border wall.
But Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff who visited Cedar Rapids last July and toured flood protection efforts, told reporters in Washington that the administration had decided against tapping into disaster relief money. Usurping that money, primarily intended to help Texas and Puerto Rico, brought strong protests after the idea was floated.
Iowa politicians expressed confidence Friday that the federal help for Cedar Rapids will come through.
“The Administration has told Sen. Grassley’s office that funds not yet awarded may be affected, but funds for the Cedar Rapids flood project have been awarded, so there should be no effect,” Michael Zona, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in an email.
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Brendan Conley, a spokesman for Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, added, “Based on initial reports, there is no indication that the Army Corps’ civil works program, which is funding the Cedar Rapids flood mitigation project, would be impacted by the emergency declaration. Our office will be closely monitoring the situation to ensure relief for Cedar Rapids is not impacted.”
Allen Marshall, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District, which is directly responsible for the Cedar Rapids east side flood control project, said he had received no word about a possible impact and noted district staff were proceeding.
“As far as I know, there is nothing for us to share at this point,” Marshall said. “I’m sure project managers are continuing their work. Nothing has changed as of today.”
The entire Cedar Rapids flood control project is expected to cost $750 million over 20 years and includes 7.5 miles of walls, berms, gates and pumps. While the Army Corps focuses on the east bank of the river, Cedar Rapids is working on separate projects to protect the west side.
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Tribune News Service contributed to this report.