Senator Joni Ernst.

Senator Joni Ernst is pressing U.S. officials to “modify” the formula for dispensing federal flood aid. Ernst says the current “cost benefit” analysis used by the Army Corps of Engineers is preventing Cedar Rapids from getting federal help to finance flood prevention projects.

“The reason for that is because of the relatively low property values in the city,” Ernst says. “Iowa has very reasonable housing property values.”

The Army Corps does have some authority to make exceptions to its funding formula requirements, but Ernst says the money is still going to the coasts where property values are far higher.

“In Fiscal Year 2017, four of the five projects receiving funding under this ‘human safety exception’ were in California,” Ernst says.

Ernst spoke during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing with the man nominated to be assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works. That nominee — Rickey Dale James — is from Missouri and he has served on the Mississippi River Commission.

“It’s not right that there’s people in this country will never, ever get any type of water infrastructure project under the current BCR analysis,” James said.

The benefit-to-cost-ratio has been used by the Army Corps of Engineers since 1936. Congress has passed legislation in 1974 and 2016, directing the agency to make adjustments, so more areas of the country qualify for federal support of water-related infrastructure projects.