Rebuild Iowa Office to close its doors this summer

The Rebuild Iowa Office, which was established in 2008 to help Iowans recover from flood damage, will close for good on June 30, 2011.

Iowa House and Senate Rebuild Iowa committees already met for the last time in 2010, and are now a part of each house’s Economic Growth Committee.

The downsizing of available government support for future flood prevention across the state is causing some to worry about the areas still suffering across the state.  The Quad-City Times reported on the new approaches to recovery earlier this month.

A little well-timed rain and high water might not be all bad when it comes to convincing the Iowa Legislature to maintain its commitment to disaster preparedness and recovery.

“Memories begin to fade” after a disaster, such as the historic flooding of 2008, said Susan Judkins, a legislative lobbyist for the Rebuild Iowa Office. “I can tell you in 2010, the fact that bad weather and flooding started happening while the legislature was in session probably helped get some things passed.”

Judkins isn’t wishing for more floods or other natural disasters. Instead, she is hoping members of the 2011 General Assembly keep in mind there are presidential disaster declarations open in all 99 Iowa counties.

The fact their constituents continue to recover from floods, ice storms, tornadoes and other disasters should be motivation enough for representatives and senators to tackle Rebuild Iowa’s ambitious agenda of recommendations, Judkins said./p>

Rebuild Iowa and flood-affected communities will face an altered landscape when the 2011 session opens Monday. Gone are the House and Senate Rebuild Iowa committees that took on the tasks of flood relief and laying the groundwork for long-term recovery and disaster mitigation. Those committees have been folded into each chamber’s Economic Growth Committee.

“It’s not gone,” state Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said about the focus on rebuilding disaster-damaged communities. As the focus shifts from immediate response to long-term recovery and prevention, however, the Rebuild Iowa committees were something lawmakers didn’t think they needed to single out, said Hogg, who led the Senate Rebuild Iowa Committee.

State Rep. Roger Thomas, D-Elkader, who led the Economic Growth Committee when Democrats controlled the House last year, thinks folding Rebuild Iowa into the economic development committees is a natural move.

“A lot of the affected communities are still rebuilding, redesigning themselves,” he said. “If we can help these river towns redevelop so they take what they lost and make it an attraction, we can continue to grow those communities.”

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