The Gazette: Cedar Rapids flood wall at top of Blum’s to-do list

CEDAR RAPIDS– Like President-elect Donald Trump, U.S. Rep. Rod Blum has building a wall at the top of his to-do list.

‘Only it’s not the wall with Mexico. It’s the Cedar Rapids flood wall,’ the Dubuque Republican said earlier this week.

It’s his priority to see that the flood wall — and federal funding — is included in the Water Resources Development Act, Blum said.

‘We’re going to be all over that,’ said Blum, who was re-elected to a second term earlier this month.

That could happen during the lame duck session when Congress returns to Washington next week or when the new Congress convenes in January.

It might be a stand-alone Water Resources Development Act bill or it might be rolled into a larger continuing resolution to fund the government or, Blum said, part of next year’s omnibus budget bill.

‘Everything is up in the air right now,’ said Blum, who is a member of the House Budget Committee. ‘I haven’t heard from leadership as to what form it will take. I just want to make sure that a WRDA bill gets through, A, and then B, the Cedar Rapids flood wall amendment is in there.’

‘So there are a lot of moving parts, but I’m hopeful,’ he said.

Cedar Rapids, which has been hit by the two worst flooding events in recorded history in the past eight years, has designed a $625 million flood control system that hinges on getting federal funding.

The city sustained close to $5 billion in damages to homes, businesses and public infrastructure after the Cedar River crested at more than 31 feet in June 2008. In September, the Cedar River crested at nearly 22 feet, forcing the city to hastily erect temporary barriers that warded off severe damages.

The city has successfully lobbied to get $70 million to $80 million authorized by Congress for the flood wall, but the money never has been allocated in the federal budget or released by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Although the Corps has a multibillion-dollar backlog of projects, Blum hopes that Iowa’s congressional delegation can get movement from the Trump administration on the funding. He anticipates Trump’s director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget will be ‘someone who is willing to listen to our side of the story.’

‘The OMB in the president’s office in the past has been the holdup,’ he said. ‘They wouldn’t even give us a meeting over the past 18 months. They basically ignored us. It was like talking to the wall sometimes when it’s the other party. At least it will be our party running things, so at least they’ll talk to us.'”

Author: James Lynch

Full article here.