CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) — One week after reports surfaced that President Trump was considering stripping money away from the Army Corps of Engineers to fund his border wall, leaders in Cedar Rapids trying to find out if such a move would impact the city's flood defense funding are breathing a little easier.
The President, and some Republicans, openly discussed declaring a national emergency at the border, which would allow the President to diver emergency funds from the Corps to the project. That fund is paying for a number of projects to protect areas including Puerto Rico, Houston and Cedar Rapids.
Now, the President appears to be backing off of that threat, and city leaders, with the help of Iowa's Congressional delegation, feel confident any moves will not impact tens of millions of dollars coming to Cedar Rapids.
“Based on ongoing conversations with the Army Corps, it appears unlikely that the Cedar Rapids project would be at risk if President Trump declared a national emergency to build the border wall." Said Senator Joni Ernst. "I’ve asked the Corps to review the signed project partnership agreement (PPA) it entered into with the city, and to provide a description of the legal obligations it entails. The fact that Cedar Rapids already has a signed PPA in place should strengthen its position. As I await this information, I will continue my outreach to the Corps and do everything I can to ensure this project is not impacted,”
City Manager Jeff Pomeranz agrees. “We spoke with Senator Ernst on Monday, January 14 to learn more about how or if a presidential emergency would impact federal funding for the Cedar Rapids flood control system project. The Senator has reassured us that the City is in a good position, and she will continue to advocate for us with the Army Corp and the Administration.”
Meanwhile, project managers are talking to the Corps every day about the project, and meeting every week to keep things on schedule. There are still several weeks to go to protect both sides of downtown Cedar Rapids with a combination of local, state and federal funding. "You will see year round work, there are things that are really condusive to middle of the winter work." Says Robert Davis, Flood Control Project Manager for the City of Cedar Rapids.
There's no official timetable to complete all flood defense measures, as some must wait for the installation of a new bridge along 8th Avenue. But the Army Corps plans to complete its portion of the project within five years, an ambitious goal for an agency not used to working on detailed defenses in the heard of a downtown district. As for the rest of the project, city leaders want everyone to know it's full steam ahead.