Flood Protection Efforts Take Major Step Forward

By Rick Smith, Reporter

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By Aaron Hepker

DES MOINES, Iowa – It’s a great day for flood protection in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Coralville, Dubuque and Waverly.

At the Statehouse in Des Moines, the still-young Iowa Flood Mitigation Board on Wednesday approved in total the requests of the five Eastern Iowa communities to use a portion of the incremental growth in state sales tax in their cities over as much as 20 years to help fund flood protection projects.

For Cedar Rapids, which sustained the most catastrophic of the floods of 2008, the state board approved $264 million in state sales tax over 20 years.

Cedar Rapids city officials have said the state funds will cover 46 percent of the city’s total flood protection project costs of $570 million, a figure for a both-sides-of-the-river plan that includes $117 million in federal funds the city already has received for buyouts and other federal flood mitigation measures, $78 million in expected funds from Congress to help build flood protection on the east side of the Cedar River and $110 million in yet-to-be-spent city funds. The total price tag factors in the cost of inflation over 20 years.

Dubuque had sought the second highest amount of state funds -- $98.5 million -- from the Flood Mitigation Board, which the board granted along with the full requests of $8.5 million from Iowa City and $9.77 million from Coralville.

Waverly, Storm Lake and Winterset also sought funds.

Cedar Rapids city officials said the first of the state dollars will come to the city in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2014, and Mayor Ron Corbett said among the top priorities will be to conduct an engineering and design work for west-side flood protection as the Army Corps of Engineers has begun to do on the east side of the river.

Dave Elgin, Cedar Rapids’ public works director and city engineer, said the city will use $9 million already in hand from the federal Community Development Block Grant program in 2014 to begin flood protection above the Quaker Co. plant on the east side of the river and to heighten the protection at the Quaker plant to the 2008 flood level.

Construction is slated for 2015 on the west side of the river in Kingston Village from Interstate 380 to the city’s riverfront amphitheater, which has built as part of the flood protection system across from downtown.

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