Iowa Senator Harkin Looks at Cedar Rapids Flood Recovery Progress

By Dave Franzman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- Millions of dollars in federal aid helped fund the still ongoing flood recovery in Cedar Rapids. And Iowa Senator Tom Harkin got an update on Friday on just where the city stands six years after one of the worst natural disasters in Iowa history.

The senator’s office noted that Harkin was one of several Midwestern senators who secured $12-billion dollars in federal emergency disaster funds after flooding in June of 2008. Iowa’s share of that money was approximately $182-million dollars.

Senator Harkin also assisted with efforts to get $73.1-million dollars in promised funding this year for future flood protection on the east side of the Cedar River.

But while Harkin has seen bits and pieces of the Cedar Rapids recovery over the years, he’s never had a chance to take a comprehensive tour. Cedar Rapids city leaders solved that problem with an hour and a half trip around the community to see exactly where the city stands six years after disaster.

The first stop on the Friday tour was the relatively new McGrath Amphitheatre on the banks of the Cedar River. City staffers told the senator how the facility that opened last year is not just an entertainment venue. It’s also will be a linchpin in the eventual flood wall and berm system on the west side of the Cedar.

The senator said he was impressed and saw a few new things. And he also said he wouldn’t have predicted this much progress in 2014 right after the floods subsided six years ago.

“The fact that it’s money well spent speaks for itself. The employment in Cedar Rapids is good, the economy is much better. And so is the attitude of the people,” Harkin said.

The senator also visited areas that were developed after the flooding, but weren’t necessarily part of flood recovery. The best example of that is the NewBo district and the NewBo City Market. City leaders said they wanted the senator to see how federal dollars to help spark the recovery led to even more urban improvement.

Jeff Pomeranz, Cedar Rapids city manager, said it was important to show Senator Harkin that the time and effort, and money, was well spent.

“It’s very important that someone who has been so instrumental in getting us the money feels good about the way the dollars have been spent,” Pomeranz said.

While the federal government has authorized $73.1-million dollars for east side flood protection in Cedar Rapids, the money isn’t appropriated yet. Senator Harkin said that’s a job that remains until he leaves office in January. Because a successful future in Cedar Rapids also involves making sure to protect the progress.

l Comments: (319) 368-8611; dave.franzman@sourcemedia.net

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