Conrad hopes for progress on flood protectionGetting permanent flood protection in the Red River basin will be a marathon, the sort of complex project that could take decades to complete. So today’s first-of-its-kind gathering of local, state and federal officials on Capitol Hill to talk flood protection is just a step along the way.
By: Dave Roepke, INFORUM
Getting permanent flood protection in the Red River basin will be a marathon, the sort of complex project that could take decades to complete.
So today’s first-of-its-kind gathering of local, state and federal officials on Capitol Hill to talk flood protection is just a step along the way.
But Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, is hoping specific progress can be made on two fronts: ensuring that a consensus for action exists and figuring out a strategy and a timeline for moving forward.
A united front across the borders on flood control is needed to move the project along the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ pipeline, the senator said. The corps is now studying options along the Red, a report that won’t be finalized until next year.
Local consensus will be needed for the cost-benefit study that would come next. Nailing down funding would be the final stage, Conrad said.
“If there’s not agreement in the local communities and in the two states, we’re never going to get to the final stage,” he said.
Participants in the meeting – including the North Dakota and Minnesota governors, several mayors, county officials and water resource managers – can also set a tentative timeline of what should be done and when, Conrad said.
One of those priorities, Conrad said, is making sure the Fargo Southside Flood Control project, a plan the Army Corps didn’t help hatch, is included as part of the wider basinwide system.
That’s a project Minnesota officials need to hear more about, said Rep. Collin Peterson, who represents the Minnesota 7th District that includes Moorhead.
“There are still questions on the Moorhead side about that,” Peterson said. “Our message is going to be we want to help Fargo-Moorhead, but don’t forget about us.”
Peterson said some Minnesota cities, such as Ada and Breckenridge, are still waiting on millions in federal dollars to finish projects that were planned after the 1997 flood.
Minnesota-side officials plan to meet on their own before the 11:30 a.m. session that includes those from both states and the Army Corps. That’s in part to talk about the later meeting, Peterson said, but also to address state-only issues.
For instance, he wants to push Gov. Tim Pawlenty to get the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to relax restrictions he said have led to delays.
“I’m not sure he totally understands how much of a problem the DNR has been,” Peterson said. “They’re more interested in creating wildlife habitats than they are in taking care of flood problems.”
Forum, WDAY flood meeting coverage
Six journalists working for Forum Communications Co. will provide extensive coverage of today’s historic meeting in Washington, D.C., on permanent flood protection for the Fargo-Moorhead area.
The Forum, WDAY TV and WDAY AM 970 will be providing coverage of the day’s events.
The Forum, through www.inforum.com and www.areavoices.com/springflood, will provide news coverage online as it unfolds.
WDAY TV plans to provide coverage for its newscasts at 5, 6 and 10 p.m.
Forum reporters also will provide updates to WDAY AM 970 during the day from the Capitol.
Comprehensive coverage and photos will be printed in Wednesday’s Forum.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535