Ernst Pushes for Completion of Cedar Rapids Flood Control Project in WRDA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) today released the following statement in support of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which includes her work to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the completion of the Cedar Rapids flood control project, as well as her provision to require a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on benefit-cost ratios for flood mitigation projects:

“The Water Resources Development Act authorizes 29 Army Corps of Engineers projects in 17 states – including Iowa, will strengthen our infrastructure through critical dam restoration and flood mitigation, and provides grants and loans to address water quality issues facing many communities across the country.

“Additionally, this legislation includes my work to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the completion of the Cedar Rapids flood control project. The provision emphasizes to the Army Corps of Engineers that Congress wants this project to remain a priority. I will continue working to ensure the Army Corps of Engineers understands the great need for this long-standing project to be completed in a timely and efficient manner.

“Furthermore, I am pleased my provision requiring GAO to study the Corps’ methodology for evaluating flood mitigation projects was included. This study would examine whether the best methodology and performance metrics are currently being used to evaluate the construction project needs for small and rural geographic areas. I look forward to seeing the results and working on improvements as we move forward.”

Ernst Provision Included in Section 3005 of the Bill:

  • Section 3005 of the WRDA 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 Included in the Bill:

  • Requires a study on 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 the dredging of shallow drafts ports on the inland Mississippi River to the authorized widths and depths.
  • Authorizes a study of the levees along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to evaluate the flood damage risks on a system-wide rather than local basis. This review was recommended by the Corps in 2008 in order to address the fact that 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 modifications to determine its utility and what improvements need to be made to ensure a successful flood protection system.
    • 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.