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Cedar Rapids, Marion seek federal aid for waterway cleanup

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Cedar Rapids and Marion are pursuing federal assistance to help pay for millions of dollars worth of tree debris cleanup in waterways as recovery from last summer’s devastating derecho continues.

The two Linn County communities are navigating federal agencies’ policies for disaster recovery as they work to clear debris-filled waterways and wooded areas. Although federal help is not guaranteed, local and federal officials say they are in communication and are confident about reimbursements.

Given its projects’ size and scope, Marion has been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency as crews continue to clean up three waterways within the community. The estimated $15 million project is in progress as contractor Southern Disaster Recovery removes tree branches from Dry, Indian and Wanatee creeks.

Marion has been working with disaster recovery consulting firm Tidal Basin to help navigate through the various projects, City Manager Lon Pluckhahn told The Gazette.

Cedar Rapids, on the other hand, has applied to the Natural Resources Conservation Service — an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture — for assistance with its debris removal through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. It provides assistance for debris removal from stream channels, road culverts and bridges, addressing erosion-related watershed impairments.

“The city of Cedar Rapids has identified damage related to debris removal in waterways for both NRCS-EWP and FEMA,” city Finance Director Casey Drew said in a statement. “The next step will be for the federal agencies to determine which program will pay for the cost of waterway debris removal.”

If funding is awarded through the ag department’s NRCS program, the city’s cost share is 25 percent. Funds for the local share will come from...

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