Cedar Rapids Mayor: Flood Protection Could Take Another 10 Years

By Rick Smith, Reporter

The Cedar River continues to rise around City Hall and May's Island Thursday afternoon, June 12, 2008. The river rose above record levels Thursday, and is expected to crest Friday morning. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)


By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Mayor Ron Corbett told one questioner at his State of the City speech on Wednesday that he now thought it would take up to another 10 years for the city to build a flood protection system in the city with the help of the federal and state government.

Corbett recounted how the Army Corps of Engineers has approved a flood-protection system for the city’s east side, though the ability to secure Congressional funding for its construction has been and will continue to be a “struggle,” he said.

The Corps is continuing its $12.5-million preconstruction design and engineering work for east-side flood protection, though Congress hasn’t funded that piece of the project in its entirety, the mayor added.

Corbett predicted that federal funding will come in phases when it comes, and so he expected the east-side flood protection system to be built in four or five phases.

As far as west-side flood protection, he reminded the audience that the Corps is not participating in that part of the project.

He noted that City Hall succeeded in convincing the Iowa Legislature a year ago to set aside a portion of the growth in state sales tax in a community for use in flood protection if the local community can match the state money.

Corbett suggested that west-side flood protection will come piece by piece. The city’s outdoor riverfront amphitheater is one piece of the protection, and Corbett said he supports the construction of a casino to the north of the amphitheater because the casino investors have said they will provide flood protection at their site.

The first of a half dozen questions asked of Corbett at the State of the City event was about the casino vote on March 5.

Corbett noted that he had endorsed the project publicly a week ago, and he gave seven reasons why the project made sense. Among those, he said a casino would bring jobs at a time when creating jobs in a community isn’t easy; a casino would give local residents a chance to spend their gaming dollars at home and not at casinos elsewhere; it would bring in property tax revenue; add an entertainment option to the city; and help fill up the downtown hotel, now city owned and under renovation.

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