WATERLOO — Hurricane damage in Texas and Florida have dealt a setback to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail in rural Black Hawk County.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has put on hold a request from the county conservation board for $380,000 in recovery funds to repair portions of the trail damaged by flooding a year ago.
Conservation director Mike Hendrickson, who has been trying since April to get a response from FEMA, called the decision “very disappointing.”
“We were notified Friday by FEMA,” he said. “It didn’t surprise us at all that funds were being frozen and critical needs were the only thing they released funds for at this time.”
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FEMA’s action came after Hurricane Harvey in late August caused catastrophic damage in areas around Houston and extending into Louisiana, which was followed by Hurricane Irma leaving widespread destruction across Florida.
Wildfires in the western U.S. also are taxing federal disaster aid.
Portions of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail were damaged when the Cedar River spilled its banks in September 2016, including an area near the Gilbertville Depot where a section of the trail was completely washed away. That area has remained closed for safety reasons.
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A disaster declaration by President Barack Obama made the county eligible for federal funds to repair public infrastructure, including trails. The county did receive money to make repairs in several of its parks.
But conservation also is seeking mitigation dollars to rebuild the elevated trail with reinforcement to prevent future washouts.
Hendrickson said his office has emailed FEMA 17 times since June seeking a decision “but we could not get them to move on the trail.”
FEMA indicated it was suspending the noncritical funds indefinitely. Conservation staff were planning to discuss options for the trail repairs Monday.
“We don’t feel we can go another year with a 150-foot hole in this trail,” Hendrickson said.
The Cedar Valley Nature Trail runs 52 miles from Evansdale to northern Cedar Rapids and is jointly maintained by Black Hawk and Linn counties. Along with the closure near Gilbertville due to flood damage, the trail also closed in La Porte City due to an unsafe bridge over Wolf Creek.
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Officials with the city of Waterloo said they had not received a similar notification from FEMA. Waterloo Leisure Services is still waiting on a request for federal funding to repair the skate park in Exchange Park, which was also destroyed in the 2016 flood.