King: Dredging, Highway 20, top House priorities

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Local commitment needed to ensure Highway 20 project

Continued dredging of Storm Lake and continuing Highway 20 as a four-lane from Highway 71 to Sioux City are the top priorities for Rep. Steve King, the congressman said Monday.

King met with local officials Monday regarding dredging on Storm Lake. King, Storm Lake Mayor Jon Kruse, City Administrator John Call, Storm Lake Chamber Executive Director Gary Lalone, King's District Director David Ehler, and local media toured the dredging site off Stoney Point on the southwestern part of the lake.

King again stressed the importance of the clean-up of Storm Lake and the Highway 20 four-lane extension to Sioux City.

"I told my wife I don't get to die until they're done," King said of both projects.

King, who has thoroughly researched the long-term impact of dredging on Storm Lake, said, "This lake wouldn't silt up for 300 years" after the project as it is planned is completed. "You made an investment that's going to last 300 years. I think it returns itself in just property tax values. It's a nice jewel in western Iowa."

King said he has been working with Jim Walsh, chair of the Congressional Appropriations Committee, to draw his attention to the need for continued funding for dredging Storm Lake.

"I wanted to make sure that I have an open door to preserve the federal funding for this dredging project and hopefully enhance it," King said. He said he would also work on getting $200,000 in funding that had already been allocated for dredging to be disbursed.

"It's going to take constant maintenance and constant oversight" to ensure continued funding for dredging Storm Lake, King said. "If I wasn't there everytime knocking on the door we could miss our chance."

King praised city leaders for their efforts in Project AWAYSIS, saying that Storm Lake could act as a catalyst for the destination park develop-ment.

In regard to the Highway 20 issue, King said extension of funding for the project in the current Highway Bill as well as work at home in Iowa to push for the project are necessary to see Highway 20 continued as a four-lane from Highway 71 to Sioux City.

King said there remains a disparity between House and Senate versions of the Highway Bill. He said two-thirds of the federal gas tax goes to "something other than road construction and maintenance."

King also said there were not enough funds to meet the Senate version of the Highway Bill. "You authorize more revenue than there is and that's what slows it down," King said.

King said he has worked closely with Sen. Chuck Grassley on both federal grants for Storm Lake dredging and for extension of the Highway 20 four-lane.

"I'm confident I can work together with him on these two projects. He's the person who's in the best position to help us," King said. "He's become the de facto leader of the U.S. Senate."

King, who organized the Highway 20 forum which will be held at Buena Vista University Thursday, said he hopes publicity can help focus attention on the four-lane issue.

"We're going to turn up the spotlight for four lanes on Highway 20," King said.

King said he wants $1.5 million in funding appropriated earlier into the coffers for the Highway 20 project plus $7.75 million in the current Highway Bill to go specifically for a Highway 20 four-lane west of Highway 71.

"I'm directing those funds to be spent west of Highway 71," King said. "I'd do more but that's what I can get."

King said "we need support all along the line" down to the state level. He said local communities need to give their opinions to the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission regarding the four-laning of Highway 20 or the project could get lost in the shuffle.

"We could use a little more support from the governor's office," King said. "The priorities have to be there. When they get finished with Interstate 235 then we need to shift it to other priorities. I'm concerned that it's going to get shifted to a lot of areas other than Highway 20."

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