The Federal Emergency Management Agency has reversed a ruling in which it had declared the Lake Delhi community ineligible for federal flood recovery assistance.
“This is great news. How great remains to be seen,” said Steve Leonard, president of the Combined Lake Delhi Recreation and Water Quality District, the official governing body of an area that sustained multi-million-dollar flood damage in both 2008 and 2010.
Though the reversal does not assure financial support, it opens a door that had been closed for the past two years.
“We are optimistic that with FEMA support we can accomplish a 100 percent restoration of the lake,” Leonard said.
Following 2008 flooding of the Maquoketa River, FEMA had obligated $7.8 million for dredging and dam repairs. In August 2010, following a July 24 flood that breached the dam and drained the lake, Lake Delhi officials sought further assistance and were told not only that the district was ineligible but that it would have to return $3.6 million already disbursed for work done after the 2008 flood.
Lake Delhi officials appealed both decisions and were told in an initial ruling last year that Lake Delhi was not an eligible applicant because it was not formed for a public purpose and did not provide an essential government service to the general public.
Upon review of the second appeal, FEMA Assistant Administrator Deborah Ingram, in a July 3 letter to Iowa and Lake Delhi officials, said the district has demonstrated that “it is an eligible applicant and has legal responsibility for the work in question.”
That change in status does not, however, mean that any federal funds will be forthcoming.
For damages incurred in the 2008 flood, funding will depend on a review of documentation for expenditures, said Pat Hall, bureau chief of the Recovery Bureau of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division.
Both Hall and Leonard said the ruling makes it increasingly unlikely that Lake Delhi would have to return funds disbursed for recovery from the 2008 flood.
FEMA project officers will assess damages incurred in the 2010 flood, Hall said.
Funding for rebuilding the dam and restoring the lake has been secured through local indebtedness and grants from the state and Delaware County, with construction expected to begin later this year.
FEMA support would enable a much more comprehensive restoration that would include large-scale dredging, shoreline restoration, repairs to beaches and other public access points and sediment control measures, Leonard said.
FEMA also approved up to $9.2 million in reimbursement assistance for Lakewood Benefited Recreational Lake District in Warren County. That decision was also a reversal based on a second appeal filed in 2011.
Orlan Love is a reporter for the Cedar Rapics Gazette.