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President Signs Water Infrastructure Bill into Law

Includes Ernst Provision for Cedar Rapids Flood Control Project

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) issued a statement after President Obama signed the Water Infrastructure Improvements Act for the Nation (WIIN) into law, which includes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). This legislation includes her provision to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the Cedar Rapids flood control project.

“I am so pleased that the president has signed this important water infrastructure bill into law. This bill 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. Additionally, the legislation also includes my provision to direct the Corps to prioritize the Cedar Rapids flood control project. As I have made clear, the Corps must fulfill their obligation to assist in completion of this project to protect the people of Iowa from another disaster. Now, this law will direct the Corps to do so in a timely manner.”

Senator Ernst also previously secured a commitment for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the benefit-cost ratios for flood mitigation projects.

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.