Sen. Chuck Grassley, Sen. Joni Ernst, Rep. Steve King, Rep. Dave Loebsack, Rep. Rod Blum, and Rep. David Young are asking the top House and Senate committee leaders to retain Iowa projects in the final version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 for potential congressional consideration later this fall.
The Iowa projects are:
Cedar River, Cedar Rapids. The language calls for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the completion of the authorized project for flood damage reduction and flood risk management.
Cedar Rapids endured a 500-year flood in 2008 and worked with the Corps of Engineers to develop a project to address that flood risk. Congress authorized the project in the Water Resources and Reform Act of 2014. To date, no construction funds for this project have been budgeted. This provision clearly shows the intent of Congress for this project to be a priority at the Corps of Engineers. This provision was included in both the Senate and House versions of the bill.
Corps levees that affect community-owned levees. The bill language says that where federally owned and operated levees increase flood risk and compromise the accreditation of community-owned local flood protection systems, it shall be the policy of the Corps of Engineers to act expeditiously with actions required to authorize, fund, identify, and implement improvements to reduce and negate negative impacts to community-owned flood protection system accreditation.
Des Moines’s DM-I levee is hydraulically connected to the Red Rock Reservoir Remedial Works – Southeast Des Moines/Southwest Pleasant Hill Remedial Works (SEDM) Levee. The SEDM levee is primarily operated and maintained by the Corps of Engineers Red Rock Project Office. FEMA considers the DM-I and SEDM levees as part of the same system of flood control so it is required that SEDM be accredited in order for DM-I to be accredited. This provision instructs the Corps of Engineers to act expeditiously with all actions that impacts Des Moines’ flood protection system accreditation. This provision was included in the House version of the bill.
Dubuque. The bill language calls for a study to determine the feasibility of modifying the flood protection system to increase the level of flood protection and reduce flood damages.
Dubuque is actively working on addressing all of its flood protection needs. This study will assist Dubuque’s efforts by determining if additional protection or modifications are needed along the Mississippi River. This provision was included in both the Senate and House versions of the bill.
A Government Accountability Office study on the Corps of Engineers’ methodology and performance metrics used to calculate benefit-cost ratios and evaluate construction projects.
There are concerns with projects in Iowa, such as in Cedar Rapids, and across the country regarding the methodology used to calculate benefit-cost ratios during the feasibility study portion of construction projects. This ratio is used by the Office of Management and Budget to prioritize projects. This study will review the methodology and performance metrics used to calculate the benefit-cost ratios used by the Corps of Engineers. This provision was included in both the Senate and House versions of the bill.
Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers Comprehensive Flood Risk Management. The bill language calls for 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 system-wide rather than local basis, and justify projects on that basis.
This review was recommended by the Corps of Engineers in a 2008 study and by the Secretary of the Army 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. This provision was included in the Senate version of the bill.
The delegation letter to the leaders of the relevant committee leaders is available here.