Grants approved removing barriers to green installation in Coralville

Coralville has been awarded two grants totaling $45,000 to address barriers for residents attempting green installation infrastructure projects in low-income and underrepresented areas.

During a March 14 meeting, Coralville City Council unanimously approved an Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) grant for $30,000 and an Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) grant for $15,000, in what is being called the Green Infrastructure Equality Project.

It is believed to be the first program in Iowa to address barriers to installing green infrastructure within lower income or minoritized populations, according to a memo from Amy Foster, the city’s stormwater coordinator.

Residents living in the boundary between I-80, the Iowa River and the Iowa Interstate Railroad are eligible for the program.

A review by the city’s engineering department last year showed that several areas in Coralville have minimal or no green infrastructure (including bioretention cells, rain gardens, permeable pavers and soil quality restoration) installed, a problem Ms. Foster believes is down to a lack of education from the city to all the community’s residents.

“We missed the mark on educating certain sections of town, so we need to go back and fix that,” she said told city council.

These areas intersect with localized flash flooding spots.

Typically, the city’s cost-share program covers 50% of green infrastructure projects. But that is not always helpful for residents in these communities.

“If you’re having trouble paying your electric or water bill, then lawn care isn’t really on the table,” she said. “We needed to look at 100% cost-share in the area.”

The grant will provide funding for a more focused education plan, with the city hiring a consultant to help with advertising efforts. It will also cover the remaining 50% residents typically have to pay in the cost-share program.

In total, the city expects 30 soil quality restoration projects will completed by the end of 2024.

Coralville was the previous recipient of DNR-administered funds responsible for developing a marketing strategy to improve infiltration practices in Coralville, Iowa City and North Liberty, known as the Iowa River Soil Health IQ campaign. Funded from 2018-2022, the campaign prompted a 300% increase in implementation, according to agenda documents.

The city will contribute $15,000 to the project, bringing the project’s total cost to $60,000. The project is supported by the Clear Creek Watershed.

Astig Planning helped the city identify areas of improvement in regards to its green practices throughout Coralville. They presented an inclusive economic development plan to Iowa City Council in September.

The news was first reported by The Gazette.