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Grassley says 'no' to Earthpark extension

Project’s supporters must match federal grant of $50 million

James Q. Lynch

The Gazette

January 30, 2007

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

  IOWA CITY — Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, won’t seek to extend the time supporters of an indoor rain forest have to match a $50 million federal grant with private funds.

  Grassley, who secured the Department of Energy grant, told Iowa City Regina High School students Monday ‘‘four years is long enough’’ for the backers of the project now slated to be developed at Pella.

  If the backers don’t raise $50 million in private funds by December, the grant money goes back to the federal treasury, Grassley said.

  ‘‘And I won’t seek to extend that,’’ Grassley said, adding that he remains confident supporters of the $150 million to $155 million project will raise private funds to match the $50 million grant.

  Grassley didn’t answer directly when asked whether he supported the concept of an indoor rain forest in Iowa. He lent his support because of the economic development possibilities — to create jobs and business opportunities, and attract tourists — and its potential to serve schools as an educational resource.

  ‘‘With all those things put together, I thought this would be a worthy project,’’ he said. The Earthpark project previously had been linked to Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Coralville.