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Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 22, 2018

Ten-year anniversary of devastating floods

By Chuck Grassley | Jun 14, 2018

The whims of Mother Nature tested the State of Iowa ten summers ago when deadly tornadoes, storms, and floods caused more than $10 billion in damage to communities, homes, and businesses. Natural disasters test the mettle of humanity. By every measure, Iowans were tested in 2008.

Unfortunately, parts of Iowa, like Mason City, are experiencing flooding once again almost ten years to the day.

Ten years ago, 88 of 99 counties were declared a natural disaster. Epic floods and E-5 tornadoes ripped holes through the center of many neighborhoods. Thanks to civic leadership and bootstrap mentality, tireless volunteers and members of the National Guard answered the call to survive and thrive from the crisis. The rallying cry to rebuild and recover has driven a decade-long drive to restore and revitalize Iowa communities.

It was a tough row to hoe. Orchestrating the massive clean-up is one thing. Paying for it is another. Congress approved nearly $800 million in federal block grants within the first year to help homeowners with restoration and buy-out efforts. However, the wheels of the federal bureaucracy too often are painstakingly restrictive to navigate. From Housing and Urban Development, to FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers, local residents got a first-hand taste of federal alphabet soup.

 

Eye toward the future

When community leaders, businesses, and homeowners got mired in bureaucratic molasses, I worked with our entire Iowa congressional delegation to take care of immediate needs and help develop long-term planning for the flood plain, such as levee improvements and flood protection systems to avert future catastrophe. In addition to directing federal disaster assistance to recovery and rebuilding efforts, I wrote the Heartland Disaster Tax Relief Act to give flood-ravaged homeowners and businesses a fresh start. Just as Congress acted to help the victims from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, I made sure Midwesterners also received a much-needed break.

Moving forward after a natural disaster isn’t easy.

 

Volunteerism

Volunteers affirmed Iowa’s treasured heritage of neighbor helping neighbor, rescuing residents and pets from flood-ravaged neighborhoods. Voters across the state voted on measures to help their communities rebuild and the state legislature passed laws to help areas mitigate against future disasters. City planners developed a strategy to revitalize their cities and towns. Recovery efforts stumbled along the way, to be sure. It takes time to see sunshine and rainbows after one of the state’s worst disasters in history.

Collaborating and finding consensus isn’t easy. Governing isn’t easy.

Despite the incalculable loss of personal belongings blended with the physical, emotional, and financial toll of starting over, the people of Iowa didn’t quit and we are more resilient and better prepared now than we were before. However, work remains to be done.

 

Cutting red tape

Working alongside civic and state leaders for the last decade, we have identified specific needs and places where red tape gets in the way to improve flood protection in local communities. That’s why I have worked with my sleeves rolled up alongside former Sen. Tom Harkin and now Sen. Joni Ernst and the rest of the Iowa delegation to ensure local infrastructure needs get up to snuff, including flood risk projects on the Cedar River and elsewhere.

Recently, the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works approved a bill that once again highlights the importance of the Cedar River flood protection project and includes a secondary budgetary process that could lead to construction funds for this project and other Iowa priorities in the future, cut red tape, and improve public input, transparency and accountability.

The people of Iowa have earned a well-deserved salute to civic participation. It’s a good day to share pride with your fellow citizens. Thanks to your resilience and hard work, even better days are yet to come.

 

– U.S. Senator Charles Grassley has been representing Iowa since 1975, first in the House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate since 1981.

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