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Mayor continuing to push political leaders for flood funding

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett talks with Rep. Rod Blum (left) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R)...
Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett talks with Rep. Rod Blum (left) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R) Louisiana. Scalise is the third highest-ranked Republican leader in the U.S. House.(KCRG)
Published: Nov. 3, 2016 at 5:19 PM CDT
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The city of Cedar Rapids is continuing to use the current campaign season to lobby national political leaders for more federal funding for flood protection.

The city spent more than $10-million dollars in September on temporary flood walls to hold back the second highest crest ever on the Cedar River. The efforts prevented major damage. But federal dollars promised back in 2014 to help with permanent flood protection haven’t come through yet.

When Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump made campaign appearance on the same day in Cedar Rapids last week, Mayor Ron Corbett was there getting a few private moments to ask for help in getting Cedar Rapids higher on the funding list.

The mayor and some other city leaders were at it again on Thursday with a flood tour for another national political leader.

Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise is probably not familiar to most in eastern Iowa who aren’t into national politics. But the Congressman from Louisiana is the House Whip for the majority Republicans in the U.S. House. That means he’s the third ranking leader.

Scalise was in eastern Iowa to help First District Representative Rod Blum campaign. The mayor and other city leaders showed Scalise what the city’s done to protect itself from future flooding.

The mayor says the majority of the time, though, was spent making a case for federal flood funding for the city.

“We have their attention because it’s election time. We hope the impact we have on them will produce some results next year. It’s been eight years going on nine. We really need them to bust through this bureaucratic formula,” the mayor said.

That formula the mayor talked about is the cost-benefit formula the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses to rank projects. Cedar Rapids ranks below many projects in larger urban and coastal areas because the value of property is much lower here.

With inflation, the Cedar Rapids flood control project is authorized to receive about $78-million dollars in funding as part of an overall 20-year, $625-million dollar permanent flood control plan. While the project for Cedar Rapids is authorized, no funding has come forth.

But the Louisiana Congressman says it’s possible Cedar Rapids could move up the list in the next session of Congress as the House and Senate revisit other projects on the Water Resources list for funding.

“We’ve started de-authorizing projects meaning a project that’s been waiting to get funding but is really a lower priority, we’re taking out of the bill altogether so that you have higher, more important projects like this one (Cedar Rapids),” Scalise said.

Scalise says Cedar Rapids has done the right thing in lining up state and local funding to help the project without relying totally on federal dollars.

Iowa’s two Senators, Grassley and Ernst, have introduced legislation that would emphasize public safety and flooding potential more than property values and might move Cedar Rapids up the list for funding.