Feb 2, 2022 - News

Iowa's $125M water recreation trails project stalls

A photo of the Des Moines River.

A key segment of the Iowa Confluence Water Trails (ICON) project includes the Des Moines River through downtown Des Moines. Photo: Brian Powers and Kelsey Kremer/The Des Moines Register via Imagn Content Services

There were no bids for one of the first and arguably most significant pieces of a $125 million water recreation trails initiative in central Iowa, multiple project officials told Axios Tuesday.

Why it matters: Millions of dollars in federal allocations for the project have strict timelines.

  • Finances could unravel if a second bid process that starts on March 29 is unsuccessful, City Councilmember Joe Gatto told Axios.

Catch up quick: The Iowa Confluence Water Trails (ICON) proposal would create amenities like boat launches, whitewater runs for paddling and enhanced fishing areas throughout a 150-mile network of creeks and rivers in central Iowa.

  • Project plans were adopted in 2016 with the cooperation of hundreds of residents, multiple groups and local governments.
  • At least $56 million has been raised or designated for the project so far.

The latest: The project was awarded a $25 million federal grant in late 2019, largely for work along a five-mile stretch of the Des Moines River through downtown.

  • Modifying a low-head dam at Scott Avenue and improving access at Prospect Park, Birdland Marina and Harriet Street were among the key pieces to be covered in bids due in December 2021.

What they're saying: The lack of offers may have been the result of roughly 100 Iowa government projects being bid at the same time late last year, said Zach Young of Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is behind the trails project.

  • Some project specifications will be revised to make next month's rebidding more appealing, he told Axios.

Of note: If the second bidding attempt fails, the MPO could seek federal grant deadline extensions, said Gunnar Olson, a spokesperson for the planning organization.

  • But project officials are confident the rebidding will succeed, Olson said.

What's ahead: Once contractors are locked in, construction could begin as early as June and be completed in 2024, Olson said.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more