Cuts Threaten Flood Resources

Charles City Press front page

Subcommittee proposes slashing center’s budget

By Kate Hayden

DES MOINES — Funding for the Iowa Flood Center could be slashed from $1.5 million annually to zero in a new Education Appropriations subcommittee bill from Iowa legislators.

Subcommittee members met Tuesday afternoon to review the General Fund proposal, which included the Iowa Flood Center under Board of Regents budget items. The center is located at the University of Iowa and staffed by university faculty, who operate the IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering department and laboratory. Action on the proposal is not expected to take place until Wednesday.

“It’s a challenging time. We hear over and over that the state budget is very tight this year, and legislators have been looking for ways to reduce their state budget,” Larry Weber, director of the IIHR Hydroscience department, told the Press. “We have been working today, and as we do all year, to communicate the value of the Iowa Flood Center.”

Cuts to the flood center “would effectively eliminate the Iowa Flood Center,” Weber said in an email to supporters, and would jeopardize the state’s $96 million federal Iowa Watershed Approach HUD grant

“We had just received five additional years of funding for this $96.9 million grant,” Weber told the Press. “We leveraged all of our information systems, and said we have this tremendous hydroscience center … They gave us the fourth largest amount of the award.

“If our funding goes away, it’s likely we lose those grants,” he said.

That grant money supports watersheds, researchers at Iowa universities and state agencies, Weber added.

“It’s simply not about the flood center. It’s about Iowa,” he said.

The flood center was established and funded in 2009 by the Iowa legislature following the statewide destruction caused by 2008 floods, including in Charles City and surrounding communities.

Charles City city officials have been active in partnering with the Iowa Flood Center and other agencies through the Cedar River Watershed Coalition. That partnership helped lead the development of CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) wetlands along the Avenue of the Saints, Weber said.

Charles City is one of many entities making up the Upper Cedar Watershed Management Authority that has worked with the Iowa Flood Center on projects, Mayor Jim Erb said.

“We’re planning to do a number of initiatives, so anytime something like the flood center gets zeroed out, that’s a problem for everyone involved,” Erb said.