By The Gazette Editorial Board
Today is a very big day for the future of flood protection in Cedar Rapids.
The Iowa Flood Mitigation board is likely to make a decision on Cedar Rapids application for $264 million in state funds to help build protection measures on both banks of the Cedar River.
The money would come from a portion of future growth in state sales taxes collected in the city over the next 20 years.
A “yes” vote puts the city on a long but certain path toward shielding its downtown and core neighborhoods from a repeat of the Flood of 2008. The economic and public safety implications for the city are huge.
We understand that Cedar Rapids is asking for a lot of money from a program that has a maximum of $600 million to hand out for flood protection and mitigation efforts across Iowa.
Six other cities, including Iowa City and Coralville, also will be seeking approval for smaller projects at today’s meeting.
But it’s important to put that $264 million within the context of a flood that did $5.4 billion in damage to the state’s second-largest city, flooding more than 7,700 properties. And although 1,300 properties have been bought out in the flood zone as a part of ongoing mitigation efforts, the city remains vulnerable. That includes economically vital manufacturing and grain processing facilities. Protecting such an important economic engine clearly is in the state’s best interests.
And it was Cedar Rapids leaders who were the architects of legislation that created the mitigation board. City Manager Jeff Pomeranz, Mayor Ron Corbett and other city officials lobbied for months in 2012 and built broad bipartisan support for their idea in a politically divided Iowa Legislature.
No small trick in our gridlocked times.
Cedar Rapids may get the largest single share, but most of the mitigation dollars will go elsewhere, benefiting cities all over the state. It’s a good example of a proactive program seeking to prevent disasters, rather than just reacting after disasters strike.
We urge the board to reward Cedar Rapids’ efforts by voting yes.
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