Oct 6, 6:18 PM EDT

Iowa officials wait for approval of levee repair plan


COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) -- Officials in western Iowa are worried that $50 million in levee repairs won't be completed quickly enough to avoid having an area deemed a flood zone, which would require costly insurance coverage.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to remap Council Bluffs' potential flood zones in 2023, The Daily Nonpareil reported .

"This is undoubtedly the biggest threat facing Council Bluffs today," Mayor Matt Walsh said.

Walsh said the city should be able to complete repairs in time. But the Army Corps of Engineers' lack of funding has slowed down the approval process on the city's repair plans. Walsh said the Corps hasn't reviewed and approved any levee-repair projects since last spring.

Walsh said that if the project isn't completed in time and the area is deemed a flood zone, flood insurance costs could triple the cost of mortgages.

"Half of the homes in Council Bluffs would essentially have no value because people would not be able to pay the costs involved in buying them" because of the flood insurance requirement, he said. "The impact of that loss on the city's property tax base and property tax revenues would be devastating."

The state created a flood mitigation program after flooding in 2008 caused extensive damage in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. The city applied for funding through the program to repair the levee and replace a box culvert on Indian Creek. The city is eligible for up to $57 million, which will be payable over 20 years, City Engineer Matt Cox said.

However, the city won't receive a large portion of the funds until after the 2023 mapping deadline.

City officials are considering selling bonds secured by anticipated flood mitigation program payments the city would receive from 2023 to 2035, Walsh said.

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Information from: The Daily Nonpareil, http://www.nonpareilonline.com

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