State approves $525K grant for Cedar Lake levee

Project is part of Cedar Rapids’ $20M downtown renovation plan

By: - August 12, 2021 5:35 pm

Cedar Lake in downtown Cedar Rapids is undergoing renovation. (Photo courtesy of ConnectCR)

A state panel on Thursday approved a $525,000 grant for a Cedar Rapids levee project to protect downtown’s Cedar Lake from flooding and siltation. 

The private ConnectCR is backing a $20 million revitalization project that includes a pedestrian bridge over the Cedar River and a boardwalk and other amenities at Cedar Lake. The lake is a former slough that a century ago was deepened to provide cooling water for a power plant.

The 3-foot-deep lake has a history of water quality issues that worsen when it floods, but is a popular spot for bicyclists and picnickers.

Community leaders want to protect the 84-acre lake from flooding and the sedimentation that comes with it. 

“The urban setting and associated storm water runoff has contributed to years of nutrient and sediment buildup in the lake and past activities within the watershed have compromised the quality of the sediment,” said Travis Baker, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ conservation and recreation division bureau chief.

Baker added that the levee is needed before more broad-based efforts to reduce pollution running into the lake.

The Iowa Natural Resource Commission on Thursday approved the grant from lake-restoration funds. The full city flood-control  project in the area is expected to cost $16.7 million.

The state’s money is covering part of a $1.7 million outfall channel at the lake.

State expands Saylorville wildlife area

The commission also decided to buy 220 acres of grassland and forest from the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to expand the state’s Saylorville Wildlife Management Area. The land was appraised for $1.6 million.

The foundation often buys land to preserve it, later selling it to the state.

The area will be available to the public for hunting. Visitors will be able to view bald eagles, owns, bats, and hawks, among other species.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.