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Ernst Provision Calling for Completion of Cedar Rapids Flood Control Project in Water Infrastructure Bill Heads to President’s Desk

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) today released the following statement after her provision to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the Cedar Rapids flood control project was included in Senate passage of the Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation (WIIN), which includes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The legislation now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“I was pleased to see that WRDA contains the authorization of Army Corps of Engineers’ projects that are important to Iowa for flood damage reduction and water resources infrastructure in addition to addressing the water quality issues many of our communities face across the country.

“This legislation also includes my provision to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to make completion of the Cedar Rapids flood control project a top priority. It is critical that the Corps fulfill their obligation to assist in completion of this project to protect the people of Iowa from another disaster, and this legislation will direct them to do so in a timely manner.

“While not included in the final bill, I have secured a commitment for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the benefit-cost ratios for flood mitigation projects. This study will direct GAO to closely examine whether solely using property values to determine the necessity of construction projects is an appropriate and fair metric for our small and rural communities.

“I urge the President to swiftly sign this legislation into law so we can begin to work on these necessary improvements moving forward.”

Ernst Provision Included in Section 1322 of the Bill:

  • Section 1322 of the bill directs Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the completion of four already-authorized projects for flood damage reduction and flood risk management. One of those four projects is the Cedar Rapids project.
  • The Cedar Rapids project was previously authorized in the 2014 Water Resources Development Act so there is no need to reauthorize it. This provision does not create a new budget or spending authority. Rather, it emphasizes that this is an authorized project that should be completed. 

Ernst GAO Study Provision Secured:

  • The study will examine the methodology and performance metrics used to calculate cost-benefit ratios and evaluate construction projects.
  • The study will address:
    • Whether and to what extent the current methodologies and performance metrics place small and rural geographic areas at a competitive disadvantage;
    • Whether the value of property for which damage would be prevented as a result of a flood risk management project is the best measurement for the primary input in benefit-cost calculations for flood risk management projects;
    • Any recommendations for approaches to modify the metrics used to improve benefit-cost ratio results for small and rural geographic areas; and
    • Whether a reevaluation of existing approaches and the primary criteria used to calculate the economics benefits of a Corps of Engineers construction project could provide greater results for small and rural geographic areas without putting a strain on the budget of the Corps of Engineers.

Water Resources Development Act Impact on Iowa:

  • Authorizes a study of the levees along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers on a system-wide basis, to evaluate the flood damage risks on a basin-wide basis. This review was recommended by the Corps in a 2008 study and by the Secretary in a 2009 letter to Congress to address the fact that a rehabilitation of a levee at a single location often cannot be cost-justified but each location is an integral part of a levee system that provides essential flood protection benefits.
  • Authorizes a study of the Dubuque local flood protection project for flood damage reduction.
Allows the Army Corps of Engineers to increase the level of protection when rebuilding a levee if the additional costs are paid by the non-Federal interest and the Corps determines it is in the public interest.