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Published April 04, 2009, 12:00 AM

Leaders on both sides of Red River vow to solve flooding

Now is the time to get federal funding and support for permanent protection against Red River flooding in Fargo, Moorhead and the whole valley, North Dakota and Minnesota political leaders declared Friday.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

Now is the time to get federal funding and support for permanent protection against Red River flooding in Fargo, Moorhead and the whole valley, North Dakota and Minnesota political leaders declared Friday.

“It is something we’re absolutely committed to making a priority,” North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven said during a news conference at the Fargo Air National Guard base. “We’ve got to get this moving.”

Hoeven, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the mayors of Fargo and Moorhead, Cass and Clay county officials and representatives of both states’ congressional delegations said the national spotlight on this historic flood fight should not be wasted.

“If we lock arms and say we can make this happen and not worry about the political fallout ... we can make this happen,” said Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat representing Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District.

Pawlenty said a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers metro flood study, due for release in December 2010, must be accelerated.

“I don’t think you should have to be wiped out or severely damaged” before help finally comes,” Pawlenty said.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said the group must create the same drive for flood protection as was seen in replacing the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis after its collapse.

“We can’t keep doing this,” said Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland, who said floods are sapping the region’s economic vigor.

Hoeven and Peterson said projects of $1 billion or more can be done if the Corps pays 65 percent of the costs.

“A billion dollars is not a big deal” anymore, added Peterson. “We can do this. This amount of money is not insurmountable.”

The F-M area saw an all-time high crest of 40.82 feet a week ago. But Friday, the National Weather Service said the Red had a 90 percent chance of hitting 40.4 feet, and a 20 percent chance of hitting 43.3 feet. Much of the metro’s flood protection is built to 43 feet, officials said.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, said his panel will convene in Fargo in late May. The group handles funding for all federal flood control projects.

Dorgan said Fargo and Moorhead must define the project they want so the corps can study it, design it and then build it.

He said the cities must also decide if they want to do flood protection in stages, such as with Fargo’s Southside Flood Control Project, or comprehensively.

“I think there’s a will to do what’s necessary to address the problem,” Dorgan said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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