Linn County Supervisor Eyes Another Ballot Referendum For Flood Control Projects

May 31, 2018

For years Cedar Rapids officials have been lobbying for federal funding to build a flood control system. But one local official says it may be time to again ask taxpayers for their support. 

An aerial view of the flooding in Cedar Rapids in June 2008.
Credit Iowa HSEMD/CAP / https://www.weather.gov/dvn/flood2008_Overview

In June 2008, the Cedar River overflowed its banks and flooded cities throughout Eastern Iowa. Ten years after the devastating floods, some local officials say the area still isn't fully prepared for the next disaster, like chair of the Linn County Board of Supervisors John Harris

"We're not as prepared as we should be after ten years. And I think Mayor [Brad] Hart can agree with me on that," Harris said. "And we're looking for funding to help."

The 2008 floods displaced an estimated 10,000 Cedar Rapids residents and left 14 percent of the city underwater. But a decade later the city is still waiting for federal funding for its $750 million flood control plan.

Harris says it may be time to take the issue back to voters.

"I think that what we'll probably have to do is put the item on the ballot, on a referendum and let the people decide where they think that a tax increase should go," Harris said. "Should it go to helping Cedar Rapids or partnering with Cedar Rapids for flood control downtown?”

Harris said  some of the housing and business developments that have cropped up since 2008 on both sides of the Cedar River could be vulnerable to future disasters if local governments don't follow through on a flood control system.

“It’s important to get these flood walls up as soon as we can," he said, "and then we pray that it never happens again.”

But Linn County voters have rejected a tax increase for flood projects in the past.

For now the plan to build the seven mile system of floodwalls, pumps and levees is just a plan.