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Rain Forest Dumps Coralville

Jennifer Lickteig

The Daily Iowan

March 30, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Daily Iowan, 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 Daily Iowan.]

AMANA COLONIES - It's official. Coralville is not getting a rain forest.

Former Governor Robert D. Ray, the board chairman for the Environmental Project, announced the finalists Wednesday -- Tiffin, Riverside, Red Rock, and Grinnell -- for the site of a $180 million indoor rain forest.

"That really isn't too earthshaking news," Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett said after the announcement. "We talked with them earlier, and they started making demands we couldn't provide."

Four core requirements for hosting the largest proposed environmental learning center in North America included available acreage, the general ambiance of the area, access to the site, and availability of local funding.

Executive Director David Oman said the amount of procurable land was the main problem with the Coralville site.

Other locations had more acres than Coralville was willing to offer, he said, adding the city's proposed spot was also too noisy and in need of more demolishing work.

"We spent a lot of time trying to do everything they wanted us to do," Fausett said. "They have chosen to do something else, so we wish them well."

Oman said the board will now focus primarily on the four finalists but would consider a partnership with the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque before naming the final location, which organizers hope will occur in mid-May.

"We're confident that one will shake out," he said.

Would-be communities will need to raise $25 million to contribute by the deadline -- a demand project veteran Fausett denounced.

"It seems a little bit unreasonable to expect communities to come up with $25 million by the end of the six-week period, when they've had four years to come up with money and haven't raised a nickel," he said.

Oman said the group hopes to recruit private donors to cover costs left over after community and federal aid by the end of the year.

The Environmental Project must match a $50 million federal grant, secured by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, by December 2007.

"This project is working aggressively to finish off its finances," Oman said.

"The local community should have some skin in the game. After all, that's the area that will most benefit from the project."

Construction is set to begin in late 2006 or early 2007 on the chosen site.