Tuesday, April 21

Why Not Develop a River Authority System?

With the local efforts to pass a temporary sales tax to address the effects of last year's flooding, one has to wonder, why doesn't Iowa have a river authority system? Clearly there are benefits of managing the waterways that create the best outcomes for the most. For instance flood remediation plans could be done in coordination with other communities.

However, in looking at the individual plans for Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Coralville, and Iowa City, it is clear that folks downstream (like in ravaged Columbus Junction) will be the recipients of a lot of fast moving, heavy flowing water (with little ability to pay for infrastructure to keep it flowing downstream). This is an example of community NIMBY-ism at its worst and a reason that a river authority system is logical.

The best model for a river authority would include a voting membership from the municipalities and/or counties in the areas where the rivers and other tributaries run through, in addition to an advisory made up of concerned citizens, experts and advocates. In areas where it is the purview of the state to appoint members to the authorities, there have been problems, not the least of which is the potential for corruption (as this classic example shows.

Ultimately, given that forming an authority would take significant time, given the politics involved. Voters are left with the untenable decision to do something today with federal and state assistance (with the knowledge that others may be affected) or hold off and hope it doesn't flood again before a better solution can be proposed and funded at a cost that we would have to bear in full.

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