Full federal funding uncertain for Cedar Rapids flood protection

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The City of Cedar Rapids moved one step closer on Thursday towards long-term flood protection. But questions still surround who is going to pay for it.

A sign marking the Sinclair Levee in the NewBo district of Cedar Rapids. Residents say this level, finished last fall, is one main reason they are more confident about river levels this September.

In a unanimous decision, members of the Cedar Rapids flood control system committee approved to move discussion of their master plan directly to the City council.

The total cost for flood protection is $750-million dollars with $117-million coming from the federal government. That announcement came in July, and in an election year, the GOP wasted no time saying who they thought "secured" that money. President Donald Trump even mentioned it during a recent visit to Peosta.

But that funding I9 has learned is uncertain. On August 8th, Mayor Brad Hart and City Manager Jeff Pomeranz sent a letter to Cedar Rapids' congressional delegation describing "grave concern" that they were told by the Army Corps of Engineers only $76-million had ultimately been committed. The city would have to take out a loan for the rest. But city officials did make one thing clear, that it's not the project of building the walls that is in jeopardy, it is simply where that funding may end up coming from.

"We're going to build this permanent flood protection system," said city council member, Tyler Olson.

City leaders tell I9 they haven't received written responses from any member of congress. Nevertheless, Mayor Hart believes their concerns have been heard.

"We're not going to give up on the $117-million and will continue to try and get federal funds for some of the additional costs," said Mayor Brad Hart.

I9 reached out to Senators Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, and Congressman Rod Blum's offices for comment surrounding the letter they received from the city. Senator Grassley's office told us in an email they would have more information soon and Liz Bowman from Senator Ernst's office said, “This level of federal support for Cedar Rapids is something to celebrate. The previous administration had years to provide federal funds for the Cedar Rapids flood control project, after it was authorized in 2014. It took tireless efforts by Senators Grassley and Ernst, Congressman Blum and Trump administration officials to make this funding a reality for the people of Cedar Rapids”. I9 has not heard back from Congressman Rod Blum.