Iowa’s political leaders have begun talking about the rebuilding process once all the flood waters have receded. Beyond the damage to infrastructure like roads, bridges, electrical grids, sewer lines and water systems — business losses are piling up. In Waterloo, part of the railroad bridge that transported tractors from the John Deere factory was washed away. In Cedar Rapids, major businesses like Quaker Oats and Penford were swamped.
Governor Chet Culver says he’s had "very productive discussions" about the rebuilding phase. "I’ve talked about a special session of the legislature, if necessary, and all’s I can tell you is we are committed to do everything we can to work with the legislature, local officials and the federal government and the private sector to provide the resources we need to rebuild," Culver says.
Last week, Culver said statewide damage estimates would reach in the billions of dollars. The head of the Iowa Homeland Security agency can’t give an estimate of how much of Iowa is or has been underwater, but he pegs it in the "millions" of acres. The governor isn’t guessing how long it will take to rebuild. "It will certainly take a long time," Culver says.
House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy of Des Moines is among lawmakers who have begun exploring options for a state role in rebuilding. "This probably is the largest natural disaster Iowa has ever faced," McCarthy says. "It’s a crisis, make no mistake about it."
A panel of lawmakers has started evaluating losses to Iowa’s agriculture sector. McCarthy warns any package of state assistance would be "highly complicated" and would have to fit with federal programs.
In the midst of the farm crisis, the state of Iowa delayed payments to schools due to a cash flow crunch when tax revenues dipped. A state emergency reserve was established and holds 650 million dollars today, but McCarthy says dipping into that fund would be a "last resort."
"There’s going to be long term ramifications because of this natural disaster…We want to make sure that our economy’s going strong this next year and the year after so we want to make sure we don’t unduly use our reserve funds," McCarthy says.
McCarthy made his comments during an appearance on Iowa Public Television.