Weekend open thread: Local Iowa news edition

Dubuque area residents are still dealing with the aftermath of more than 10 inches of rain in a 24-hour period this week, which caused massive flash flooding and road closures. It was a one-day record for rainfall. Governor Terry Branstad changed his schedule on July 28 to inspect the damage.

The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa wrapped up today in Davenport. From what I’ve read and seen on the news, it sounds like the pass-through and overnight towns generally did a great job providing refreshments and entertainment for the riders. It can’t have been pleasant bicycling and camping out in this week’s high heat, but thousands of riders made it all the way to the Mississippi River. RAGBRAI officials made minor route changes in Davenport, fearing flooding after the heavy rain in Dubuque, but the river stayed in its banks.

A little more than a year ago, flooding washed away the dam at Lake Delhi in Delaware County. The lake quickly drained, ruining what had been a popular resort area. The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied funding for people who owned houses on the former lake. Property values and tax receipts are way down. In the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund bill for fiscal year 2012, state legislators included funding for a Lake Delhi dam restoration study, as well as “intent” language regarding future funds for reconstruction. Branstad used his item veto power to remove the planned funding to rebuild the dam, saying any commitment was premature before the study results have been received. More details on Branstad’s veto are after the jump. I see his point, but the veto will hurt local efforts to secure other financing for the project.

It’s worth noting that Branstad urged state legislators to pass a bill this year promoting nuclear reactor construction in Iowa, even though MidAmerican is only one year into a three-year feasibility study on that project. The pro-nuclear bill passed the Iowa House but didn’t come up for a floor vote in the Iowa Senate.

This week Kiplinger released its 2011 list of “Best Value Cities” nationwide, and Cedar Rapids was ranked number 9. Analysts cited strong local employers, good amenities, reasonable home prices, and a good recovery from the 2008 flooding. Kiplinger mentioned major downtown renovation projects but not the I-JOBS state infrastructure bonding initiative, which was a crucial for financing those projects. State Representative Renee Schulte, who represents part of northeast Cedar Rapids, cheered the praise from Kiplinger. Like all other Iowa House Republicans, she voted against the I-JOBS program. Schulte won her first election in Iowa House district 37 by just 13 votes in 2008. The Democrat she defeated, Art Staed, is seeking a rematch in the new House district 66 in 2012.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

From James Lynch’s report, Branstad veto of Lake Delhi funds comes as surprise; community confident it can make case for aid – again:

In addition to stripping the $5 million the Iowa Legislature earmarked for rebuilding Lake Delhi and the dam that created the 450-acre impoundment on the Maquoketa River in Delaware County, Branstad used his line-item veto to eliminate a $10 million increase in House File 648 for the Community Attraction and Tourism program.

“This will provide additional time to consider the best use of these funds in the future,” he said.

Branstad’s veto of the Lake Delhi funds “boggles my mind,” Sen. Tom Hancock, D-Epworth, said. “It would be different if it was taxpayer money, but it comes from the (Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund), so it’s gaming revenue.”

Rep. Nate Willems, D-Lisbon, was disappointed Branstad vetoed what was a legislative compromise to provide $2.5 million a year in 2013 and 2014 for rebuilding the dam and public lake that was a popular recreation destination for Eastern Iowans, many who built homes there.

“The intent language would at least indicate the state had the intention of contributing,” Willems said, and provide a strong indicator of where funds for rebuilding would come from.

Regardless of the source of the funds, Branstad called it “premature to assume the state will obligate funds for the dam until the study is completed and analyzed by myself and the General Assembly.”

That’s essentially what the Legislature did in the bill – express an intent to participate in the project “contingent upon receipt of the study.”

Branstad went on to say he supports the preconstruction dam restoration study, which is funded with $350,000 in HF 648.

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  • Delhi

    Don’t shed any tears for Lake Delhi.  This is a private lake. In their quest for tax dollars, the proponents will argue that the public used the lake, but that is flat wrong. The proponents will point to two access points for the public…one was really outside the boundaries of the lake and it would be a stretch to argue it was part of the lake.  The second was a small boat ramp accessed through a county conservation thing that only the smallest of craft could use.  The fact is the public was never welcomed on that lake.

    Also, if you were going to spend millions (and double the quoted estimates for a new facility) to build a lake recreation area, you would NEVER build here, for any number of legitimate environmental factors.  One only hopes the study on this project will be fair and impartial, because any legitimate study will conclude this dam should not be rebuilt. The fact it is there at all is because it is a throwback to a time 80 years ago,

     Finally, it has not been reported that the study money is being taken from legitimate public lake restoration projects from around the state….and now these projects will suffer because of a private lake.  

    If the “lakers” were smart, they’d start ponying up some big campaign contributions to the Branstad Administration, because that’s how the nursing home industry and the Iowa Farm Bureau get red carpet treatment these days at the Capital.

    • I agree with the principle

      of doing a real study before committing further funding. I am not familiar with the lake and whether it was used by the public or only by people who owned lakeshore property.

      I was against the DNR budget cuts, period. We should be spending more money on lake restoration and many other things.

  • Rebuilding the "private" lake

    After that dam failure last year I read quite a bit of the opinionated letter-to-the-editor/blogs written by people from all around the state. Obviously the letters from lake residents and their relatives argued the case for public funding. The letters from non-lakers pretty much ran against.

    The opinion that I formed is that there really is no public interest to be served by investing in damming up that creek/river again.

    IF we-the-people somehow do get sucked into building a lake for those residents, I believe that some serious strings must be attached to the purse. First and most-importantly, there would need be a very open and user-friendly public access site to the water. I visualize that as having the form of a State-owned and operated park, possibly with picnicking and perhaps even campsites and certainly a boat ramp and dock along with adequate paved parking and plenty of permanent toilet facility.

    Possibly the looming nightmare of weekend peace and quiet shattered by jet-ski idiots in the dozens might be enough to convince the lakers to go it on their own.