House Democrats have supported the use of the Iowa Power Fund for a number of innovative projects building Iowa’s renewable energy infrastructure.  This has included everything from wind energy development to waste disposal technology.  The Cedar Rapids Gazette has an interesting story about how the Power Fund is being used to promote sustainable rebuilding in flood ravaged areas (below the fold):

A new AmeriCorps group is working to make Eastern Iowa a little greener.

The 56 members of Green Iowa AmeriCorps, the first of its kind in the nation, are based in Cedar Rapids and Cedar Falls. Their mission is to assess energy needs and provide energy education and service.

Green Iowa AmeriCorps workers Stephanie Meyer of Swisher and Jared Musil of Ely weed a plot of potatoes Monday at the AmeriCorps-built community garden on Third Street SE in Cedar Rapids. The garden is built on the former site of the historical Vavra House, lost to the 2008 flood.

Green Iowa AmeriCorps workers Stephanie Meyer of Swisher and Jared Musil of Ely weed a plot of potatoes Monday at the AmeriCorps-built community garden on Third Street SE in Cedar Rapids. The garden is built on the former site of the historical Vavra House, lost to the 2008 flood.

Part of the group’s outreach is a community garden, created in two vacant lots in the flooded New Bohemia neighborhood in Cedar Rapids.

Where floodwaters washed away a historical home — the Vavra House, 1019 Third St. SE, owned by Michael Richards and his wife, Liza Duquilla — the 19 Cedar Rapids-based members of Green Iowa AmeriCorps have literally built a garden from the ground up.

Tim Reynolds, a group leader, said five members hand-loaded 12 truckloads of limestone foundation stones from four houses demolished to make way for an office building in the 1800 block of First Avenue SE. Those stones formed the raised beds in which seeds for the garden were planted.

“We use anything we can find,” said Reynolds, 25, who lived in Newton before moving to Cedar Rapids for the program. “We’re trying to teach people there are other options besides sending it to the landfill.”

Fencing donated from a flooded home, a metal bed frame and wooden doors that were discarded all find a use in the garden, sandwiched between two buildings that are being reconstructed. Seeds, plants and wood for more beds were donated.

Members also focus on weatherization of homes in older neighborhoods and flooded areas of Cedar Rapids. Reynolds said the goal is to improve 100 flooded homes with caulking, weatherstripping and other energy efficiencies.

The team can insulate homes, provide compact fluorescent light bulbs and help find funding for energy-efficient refrigerators and washing machines for homeowners. Those efforts are supported by a grant from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.

Green Iowa AmeriCorps receives federal funding, with a matching grant of $150,000 from the Iowa Power Fund. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources manages the funding, while the Community Corrections Improvement Association oversees the Cedar Rapids team.

“There’s not a road map out there for this type of startup,” said Jane Mild, supervisor of the DNR’s Office of Volunteer Service. “They’re doing an absolutely terrific job.”

Green Iowa is one of five AmeriCorps groups under the Community Corrections Improvement Association’s umbrella.

Most members are just out of high school or in college and spend three to 11 months with Green Iowa AmeriCorps. Members receive living stipends of $3,176 to $12,000, depending on the length of their stints. Upon completion, they also receive education awards of $1,250 to $4,725. Kirkwood Community College student Derek McNerney, 19, said he joined to help Iowans recover from last year’s floods. Digging a trench for another garden bed this week, McNerney said the work has been rewarding.

Neighbors in need can visit the garden and pick cucumbers, zucchini and other ripe produce.

“It’s pretty enjoyable, once you see the look on someone’s face,” McNerney said.