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Grassley Says Show Me the Rainforest Money

Josh Hinkle


November 10, 2005, 5:14 a.m.

[Note: This material is copyright by KCRG-TV9, 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 KGAN-TV9.]

(Coralville KCRG) -- It's a freeze on federal funding. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa says, within two years, the Environmental Project must match his funding appropriation or he's pulling federal dollars.

"They've always been very transparent with us on contacts that were made and where they thought that there was progress being made that money would be coming in, but I haven't seen the money yet."

The project - an indoor rain forest with a $150-million price tag. Grassley secured $50-million in federal funding. But how close to matching that $50-million is the Environmental Project?

TV9 asked Executive Director David Oman repeatedly, but he could not give an exact amount or a specific time frame. "The fact that we've taken a little time is not surprising. You look at world class projects like the Gateway Arch which took 20 years, Mount Rushmore that took 16 years."

This project would be the Mount Rushmore of Coralville. 500 construction jobs, 200 permanent jobs, an estimated 1.5 million visitors yearly. And an $85-million positive economic impact in Johnson County alone.

But maybe this isn't the grand project for Coralville. The city already has secure developments in the area around the rain forest site - like the Marriott Hotel and conference center and a multi-million dollar condo project approved just this week.

In fact, city council members say, Coralville is ready to move on with or without the rain forest. Councilman John Lundell says, "If we are successful at getting that built in Coralville, it would attract additional businesses that wouldn't typically come to a town like Coralville."

There has been talk, however, that the project might actually move out of Coralville. TV9 has learned project officials are scheduled to meet this week to discuss just that. Some possibilities being thrown out as new project locations: Des Moines, Davenport and Dubuque.