Senator Ernst, Mayor Corbett Highlight the Need for Completion of Flood Mitigation Projects in Iowa

The Iowa Senator questioned the Corps’ decisions to prioritize coastal projects over those in rural states.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), shed light on the urgent need for proper flood control and infrastructure in Cedar Rapids, and as well as in places like Des Moines and Cedar Falls, at today’s EPW hearing entitled, “Flood Control Infrastructure: Safety Questions Raised by Current Events.” The committee heard from several witnesses, including Senator Ernst’s guest and the Mayor of Cedar Rapids, Ron Corbett, as well as Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite, the Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Iowa Senator had the opportunity to introduce Mayor Corbett to the committee, where she applauded his hard work guiding the city through the critical improvements over the years: “Mayor Corbett has been working tirelessly on behalf of the citizens of Cedar Rapids, securing state and local funding to rebuild his community after the 2008 flood – and what they have done is truly impressive. But critical assistance from the Corps is also needed to complete Cedar Rapids’ Flood Risk Management Project and this is something Mayor Corbett has been leading the charge on for years now.”

Additionally, Senator Ernst called attention to the difficult position the Cedar Rapids community has been placed in due to incomplete flood mitigation projects: “Cedar Rapids and communities across my state are in need of Corps assistance but have run into hurdles trying to navigate the bureaucracy within the Corps and OMB [Office of Management and Budget]. They just point fingers at each other and it is an issue that we’re trying to work through and resolve, not just for the people of Cedar Rapids, but for many communities across the state of Iowa and the nation. The city of Des Moines also has important levee work that needs to be done and Cedar Falls has been working on a 408 permit application that still isn’t approved.” Click here to watch Senator Ernst’s opening remarks to the committee in full.

Late last year, Senator Ernst met with the Corps to discuss the Cedar Rapids flood mitigation project, and today she reemphasized those concerns to General Semonite. Additionally, Senator Ernst stressed the need to review the metrics used by the Corps to determine federal assistance. As Senator Ernst has repeatedly stated to the committee, the current cost-to-benefit ratio puts projects in rural states, such as the one in Cedar Rapids, at a disadvantage to the coastal regions that have a higher property value.

Today, the Iowa Senator specifically pressed the Corps’ decision to prioritize four projects in California over the urgent needs of Iowans: “I wrote to you last fall inquiring about how human safety is considered in the decision process to budget and fund flood risk reduction projects. The Corps sent me a letter back in December stating that these decisions are determined on a case-by-case basis. And then a list was provided to me of the FY2017 projects that were funded for construction because of the significant risks they pose to human safety. Now these also have low BCRs [Benefit Cost Ratios]. They’re very similar to what we see in Cedar Rapids and I noticed that four out of these five projects funded were in California.”

Senator Ernst continued, “Can you explain to me why the lives and livelihoods of Californians are worth more value than the lives and livelihoods of Iowans? Particularly since California is a very vast state with large amounts of economic resources.”

Click here to watch Senator Ernst’s exchanges with Mayor Corbett and General Semonite in full.