(Washington) -- Iowa Senator Joni Ernst continues to press the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address levee repair issues arising from the floods of 2019.
Recently, the Red Oak Republican praised corps officials for their efforts in securing funding for flooding mitigation projects in Cedar Rapids at a Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee hearing. Now, Ernst says the focus is on securing money for levee renovation efforts in flood-torn southwest Iowa.
"We still have a number of levee issues, infrastructure issues," said Ernst, "and how are they going to work with the state government, the federal government, and of course, those local communities to make sure that we are shoring up the necessary infrastructure to protect these communities?"
Speaking on KMA's "Morning Line" program Friday morning, Ernst says her office is working with the corps to address funding issues for such projects as the Ditch 6 levee southwest of Hamburg. Local officials are seeking funding sources to increase the levee's height to 919 feet--eight feet higher than what the corps is obligated to provide.
"We are working through those issues right now," she said. "That discussion was brought up in that hearing, and then followed up with my staff and the corps staff following that hearing. So, we're trying to find ways that whether through regulation, or through actual legislation, we might be able to assist communities in the western part of the state that have been hit very hard by this continual flooding in the state this year."
Back in September, the state's Flood Recovery Fund Committee allocated $6.3 million towards raising Ditch 6. But, Ernst says the question remains whether any federal funding can be secured in order to ease the burden on state coffers.
"Unfortunately, what we're seeing with the corps is because there's not an immediate emergency anymore," said Ernst, "there are rules that will prohibit them from investing in the Hamburg levee. That's the language we are looking at--how do we work through that language, how do we work through that offset, that might allow the federal government to step in and help communities that cannot afford to put forward their own cost share, and still allow the federal government to send funding in their own direction?"
Bipartisan support in addressing levee repair funding issues has come from New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. A former Democratic presidential candidate, Ernst says Gillibrand is well aware of the situation in southwest Iowa.
"Kirsten came into Iowa, and was at the Glenwood field hearing that we did on the flood issue (in May)," she said. "So, she's intimately familiar with what we're faced with in Iowa. I think she has her own communities in New York that have faced similar circumstances. So, it's just by doing this, and again, being able to paint that picture of what's going in Iowa with other members of Congress out here, and we might be able to resolve it."
You can hear the full interview with Joni Ernst on our "Morning Line" page at kmaland.com.