WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), hosted a meeting in her office with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Congressman Rod Blum (IA-01), and Director of Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mick Mulvaney to discuss an outstanding flood mitigation project in Iowa and a path forward to ensure Iowa receives its long overdue assistance.

Following the meeting, Senator Ernst issued this statement:

“One of Iowa’s top infrastructure priorities is flood mitigation. Today, I reiterated to Director Mulvaney that Cedar Rapids has yet to receive the critical flood assistance needed from the Corps, despite the fact that it has already been authorized. Much of this is due to the flawed benefit-cost-ratio (BCR), and is something I have been pushing the Army Corps of Engineers to reevaluate.

“As I have raised with both the President’s nominee to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Mr. R.D. James, as well as Lieutenant General Semonite, I again emphasized to Director Mulvaney that the Corps’ benefit-cost-ratio for federal assistance favors coastal regions with a high property value, often leaving rural states and their cities, such as Cedar Rapids, at a disadvantage. Through my committee work, I have stressed that we must find a way to improve these metrics so our rural communities have an opportunity and do not continually remain a lower priority to the Corps.

“Just yesterday, General Semonite agreed that the BCR metrics do need to be changed and that a ‘one-size fits all metric’ does not work. Additionally, last month, Mr. James agreed that the BCR metrics should be modified, and said, ‘it’s not right that there’s people in this country [who] will never, ever get any type of water infrastructure project under the current BCR analysis.’ Both committed to working with me and the OMB on modifying the BCR in a timely manner.

“We explained the importance of this project to Director Mulvaney, and we are hopeful that he will work with us to explore all avenues that could result in ensuring this project receives the assistance that has been authorized for flood mitigation in Iowa.”

PHOTO: Senators Ernst, Grassley, Congressman Blum, and Director Mulvaney discuss the outstanding flood mitigation project in Iowa.

Ernst Efforts to Obtain Assistance for Iowa Flood Mitigation:

  • Yesterday, at an EPW hearing, Senator Ernst again pushed for a commitment from Lieutenant General Todd Semonite, Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work to modify the current BCR metrics used by the Corps to determine which projects receive funding. Ernst stressed the way the BCR is currently calculated puts Cedar Rapids—and other communities in rural states and regions—at a disadvantage.  General Semonite agreed that the BCR metrics do need to be changed and that a “one-size fits all metric” does not work.
  • At a December 2017 EPW hearing, Senator Ernst received commitments from the nominee to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Mr. R.D. James, to reevaluate and improve the current BCR metrics used by the Army Corps of Engineers to determine which Corps projects receive funding, in an effort to make those funds more accessible to rural states like Iowa.
  • The 2016 Water Resources Development Act was signed into law, which included an Ernst provision for the Cedar Rapids flood control project.