The Federal Emergency Management Agency decided this week against providing federal funds to rebuild the Lake Delhi dam in northeast Iowa after last month's catastrophic breach:
A written analysis by FEMA officials said the Lake Delhi Recreation Association is a private, non-profit association formed to provide recreational services.
"The applicant does not provide any essential governmental service to the general public. The lake is not used for electricity, drinking water, or irrigation. It is used only for recreation," the federal document said.
FEMA's analysis also said that the "Combined Lake Delhi Benefited Recreational District and Water Quality District," which levies property taxes to operate the dam, doesn't meet the definition of a government agency for FEMA eligiblity purposes.
"It was not formed for a public purpose, nor does it provide essential governmental services to the general public," the document said.
Today's announcement does not affect Lake Delhi residents who are getting individual assistance from FEMA to help rebuild flood-damaged homes, Josephson said. Individual assistance is covered by a separate federal program.
Even worse, the new determination reverses FEMA's agreement two years ago to provide $2 million for repairing the Lake Delhi dam caused by flooding in 2008. Governor Chet Culver had harsh words for FEMA:
"This is an example of a federal government agency changing rules and regulations, and its interpretation of them, in the middle of a great hardship, getting in the way of help for Iowans who have lost so much in the floods," Culver said.
He is encouraging the people of Lake Delhi to appeal the FEMA decision.
"It is the right thing to do and I will support them in these efforts," Culver said. " Let me say in the clearest possible terms - this is a matter of fairness. We will do everything we can to make things right."
Representative Bruce Braley, who represents the Lake Delhi area in Congress, issued a more cautious statement saying there are no "easy answers" for this "complicated issue." Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad had no comment on FEMA's decision. Earlier this month, Branstad accused Culver of promising too much and delivering too little to flood victims. That took chutzpah, since Branstad has never explained how Iowa could have paid for flood recovery and prevention measures without the I-JOBS state bonding program he and other Republicans criticize. Branstad has also declined to answer Iowa Independent's questions about how his proposal to eliminate the Iowa Department of Economic Development "would impact Linn County flood victims still plodding through a lengthy federal property buyout process."