The last two months have been rough for thousands of Iowans who have lost loved ones, been injured, or have lost their homes. The State of Iowa will continue to work with local and federal officials, to provide support and assistance for those impacted by severe weather.
As the recovery process unfolds, damage estimates are starting to take shape and the numbers are staggering. 40,000 Iowans have been displaced. 12,000 homes have been destroyed or are uninhabitable, with another 12,000 homes having received damaged, but families can still live there. 32,000 Iowans have applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The historic floods and tornadoes have reached nearly 45,000 square miles and 340 towns have been affected. 80 of Iowa’s 99 counties have received Presidential Disaster Declarations. The Governor has estimated about $950 million to repair damaged homes that may not be met by current federal disaster programs. University of Iowa officials have said damages could top $230 million. $736 million in property damage in Cedar Rapids. 125 miles of flood damaged highways.
Earlier this month, legislative leaders and Governor Culver announced the creation of the 15-member Rebuild Iowa Commission, chaired by Adjutant General Ron Dardis, of the Iowa National Guard. The commission, which has already held its first meeting, is required to make an initial damage assessment and recommendations to the Governor and Legislature by September 2nd, with a long-term vision for rebuilding due October 31st.
The commission has set up nine task forces, comprised of public citizens and four legislators, one from each caucus, in the House and Senate. The task forces, which will help gather information and make recommendations for the commission, are: Housing, Infrastructure & Transportation, Economic & Workforce Development, Public Health & Health Care, Agriculture & Environment, Flood Plain Management & Hazard Mitigation, Records & Cultural Heritage, Long-Term Recovery, and Education.
The commission is staffed by the newly created Rebuild Iowa Office, which is run by Lt. Governor Patty Judge. The office has 45 staff members who are experts in fields like housing, transportation, and infrastructure, which will aid in recovery efforts. The office is located next to the Federal Emergency Management Agency temporary office, in order to maximize cooperation.
The Rebuild Iowa Commission will hold meetings and public forums at several locations across Iowa, to hear from Iowans. They will be in Cedar Rapids on July 31st, Wapello on August 5th, and Cedar Falls on August 19th. Listening sessions will be held on August 11th in Red Oak and August 12th in Fort Dodge. For continuous updates on storm recovery efforts or to volunteer, please go to www.flood2008.iowa.gov.
I was recently appointed to the Energy Efficiency Interim Study Committee, by Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy of Dubuque. The committee is established to improve energy efficiency plans and programs used by utility companies in Iowa. I’m proud of our work toward making Iowa a world leader in renewable energy, but we must also improve our energy efficiency efforts if we are going to make Iowa energy independent. Energy efficiency programs are the least-cost resources for meeting Iowa’s future electricity needs. Energy efficiency programs also help the economy by creating new “green collar” jobs that stay here in Iowa. I have included a link to the Cedar Falls Utilities webpage, to make homeowners aware of the programs that are available. http://www.cfu.net/save_energy.php?loc=top