CR Officials: Flood Funding a 'Game Changer'

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A decade after devastating floods along the Cedar River ravaged Cedar Rapids, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced it will approve $117 million in flood protection funding for the eastern Iowa city.

A look at the yet to be budgeted NewBo Levee, which would link up with the recently completed Sinclair Levee to continue flood protection for the higher portions of the NewBo district. (Courtesy: City of Cedar Rapids)

The funding will go toward a $550 million flood control system already in the works. The city says the state of Iowa has committed to contributing $284 million, or 35 percent of the total cost. The city will match $110 million, with $10 million already invested.

City officials say several flood control projects have been completed and several more are underway, but there is still a need for funding to complete the entire permanent flood control system.

The announcement came as long-awaited news for businesses that have invested in places like the New Bohemia area, which was once under 13 feet of water. The heavily commercialized spot now boasts a slew of restaurants and shops with property values near double what they were before 2008.

Just two years ago, all of that progress was put in jeopardy as the 2016 flood threatened the area. Temporary flood protections went in place. Businesses and residents moved out in fear of flood waters.

The new federal dollars could offer a reprieve from the concern of that happening in the future. The funds might ensure the NewBo Levee is budgeted as part of the city's Flood Control System. It would continue the recently completed Sinclair Levee, running northwest and protecting the higher ground of the NewBo district with walls, gates, and an earthen levee holding back water 11-13 feet high.

The sooner the better said officials with the NewBo City Market, which had to evacuate during the 2016 flood.

"Back in 2016, we had to make some tough decisions, some compromises, and really had to fight against time," said Logan Schultz, the director of programming and community engagement at the market. "To have things in place to prevent that from happening would be a game changer."

The city didn't have any specific idea when or if the NewBo Levee would get budgeted in the near future. But, officials said in a statement they're evaluating project timelines as they move forward.

Even so, just hearing federal dollars were on the way to the city was enough to excite patrons of the NewBo area. One Cedar Rapids teen that frequents the district told us how important she felt spot is.

"This is like the heart of the community, I think, downtown," said Courtney Constien. "A lot of people Friday nights. NewBo hosts a lot of events. I think it's really important to protect something like this to cherish the community that we have."