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Supervisors Open to Rain Forest
Washington County Votes to Submit Letter of Interest to Project

Mary Zielinski

The Gazette

January 25, 2006

[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.]

WASHINGTON, Iowa ó A split Washington County Board of Supervisors said Tuesday it is willing to consider bidding for The Environmental Project indoor rain forest near Riverside.

    The 2-1 vote was seen as opening the door to working with the private $180 million project, but also as being noncommittal.

    Supervisors Randy Payne and Larry DeLong voted yes to submitting a noncommittal letter of interest to project proponents. Chairman Jack Dillon was opposed.

    The supervisors were considering whether to work with Riverside in sponsoring a $20 million Vision Iowa grant for the project if it comes to Riverside.

    Dillon was interested in information, especially operational costs, and said backers of the project are skittish about providing it.

    The project has been planned for south of Interstate 80 in Coralville but negotiations on that site have broken down. The Environmental Project announced last month it would consider other locations but would not rule out Coralville.

    Ed Raber, executive director of the Washington Economic Development Group, said that the possible Riverside site, across Highway 22 from the Riverside Casino and Golf Course that is being built, can work. The projectís model, the Eden Project outside London, England, was built in a former quarry, Raber said.

    Raber requested the letter from the county. It was similar to the one he requested of the Riverside City Council last week. Council members said they were interested but would not commit funds.