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Deadline Was Needed for Rain Forest


Iowa City Press-Citizen

November 13, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, 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 Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, played the lead role in obtaining $50 million in federal funding for the $180 million Coralville rain forest project. Now he is attaching strings to that money, saying "I can't let federal tax dollars be frittered away." ("Grassley to limit rain forest funds," Nov. 10).

We are glad to see Grassley has introduced legislation that requires project leaders to match the $50 million in federal money with non-federal funds. The legislation also means the federal government will reclaim the remainder of the $50 million grant if the project does not secure the matching money by Dec. 1, 2007.

Grassley's move follows an increasing number of comments and actions by officials who show a growing impatience.

The key question for the project, of course, is simple: Where are they going to get the rest of the $180 million? Right now they're only about halfway there.

Our community needs the answer to that question because if the rain forest project isn't going to happen, we need to focus on something else.

Federal taxpayers need the answer, and need it soon, because no one wants that money frittered away. Grassley's action even raises questions about how the project will operate on a day-to-day basis.

We suspect that Coralville City Administrator Kelly Hayworth is right when he suggests that, in the end, Grassley's deadline won't be important because if project leaders can't come up with the money by then, the project will be dead anyway.

Coralville city officials have been negotiating with rain forest officials for the past several weeks on requirements necessary for the transfer of more than 20 acres of city-owned land for the project, which includes a 4.5-acre indoor rain forest, a 1 million gallon aquarium, teaching space and an outdoor performance venue. A majority of city councilors now oppose transferring the land to the project under its current leadership.

We believe both the city of Coralville and now Grassley are right to set deadlines for this project. If the project can't go forward, don't let it languish endlessly.