Culver Bill Signing
Iowa Governor Chester J. Culver signs one of five bills signed into law on Friday, May 22, 2009 in front of the Linn County Courthouse on May's Island in Cedar Rapids while Lu Barron (from left), Chair of Linn County Board of Supervisors, Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran and Lennn County Board of Supervisors Ben Rogers look on in the background. The five disaster recovery-related bills (Senate File 415, Senate File 377, House File 705, House File 756 and House File 759) will help Iowans recover from the floods of 2008 and help speed up future disaster recovery efforts. (Chris Mackler/The Gazette) CHRIS MACKLER

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Nearly a year after the Cedar River washed over May’s Island, Gov. Chet Culver visited to sign five pieces of disaster-related legislation and celebrate the progress in the community’s recovery from a 500-year flood.

On the island, in front of the Linn County Courthouse and Jail, which have re-opened, Culver said he saw evidence Cedar Rapids is “slowly, but surely getting back to normal.”

Facing City Hall, its fate still not determined, Culver said his visit also was a reminder that the community and the state have a long way to go to complete the recovery from floods and tornadoes last year that caused more than $8 billion in damage.

“It may take years, but we’re getting there,” Culver said.

The progress has been aided in no small part by more than $3 billion in federal and state disaster recovery assistance, including $600,000 in assistance approved during the 2009 legislative session, he said.

There’s more assistance to come, Culver said. He expects the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to soon announce hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.

And Culver touted his $830 million bonding plan that was the centerpiece of his legislative agenda. It includes $165 million to help disaster-impacted communities as well as $100 million for rebuilding efforts on the University of Iowa campus.

The $715 million I-JOBS initiative included in the bonding plan will not only help pay for the recovery, but it will put people to work in disaster-affected communities, he said.

Culver went out of his way to defend the bonding plan that critics say will cost taxpayers $1.7 billion. The $100 million in bonds to rebuild Hancher Auditorium and other University of Iowa buildings secured more than $500 million in federal funds, he said.

“We paid for that in one day,” he said, referring to the interest costs. Later he pointed out Iowa local governments have bonded for nearly $3 billion to build schools, hospital and roads.

There will be opportunities to leverage federal money with nearly every recovery project, Culver said.

“I can give you examples all over the state of projects where we’ll be able to leverage money from the feds — the flood center, these sewer projects — and/or leverage private money. We have investors who are ready to partner with cities,” he said.