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Published January 29, 2010, 12:00 AM

Dorgan to weigh F-M flood options

Sen. Byron Dorgan previewed upcoming meetings addressing Red River Valley flood concerns during his first conference call with reporters since his bombshell retirement news three weeks ago.

Sen. Byron Dorgan previewed upcoming meetings addressing Red River Valley flood concerns during his first conference call with reporters since his bombshell retirement news three weeks ago.

Local, state and federal officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will meet Monday in Fargo to discuss the latest costs and alternatives for constructing permanent flood protection in the Red River Valley.

Dorgan reserved judgment Thursday on whether he preferred a diversion in North Dakota or Minnesota, which is considered the most likely option discussed.

Instead, the Democrat said he first wants to evaluate the cost-benefit ratio of all alternatives presented Monday and determine if the options are even eligible for federal support.

Federal aid for the project would require a minimum cost-benefit ratio of 1.0, he said.

Without federal support, “I don’t think a plan is going to get done,” he said.

On Feb. 19, Dorgan will host a field hearing in Fargo of the U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development to look at the release of water from Devils Lake and the potential impact on downstream communities, including Fargo and Valley City.

Dorgan, the subcommittee’s chairman, secured $90 million in an appropriations bill last year to increase the size of the levee at Devils Lake and protect the surrounding community from flooding.

“We have made all kinds of efforts … to help provide the funding necessary to mitigate the damages of flooding at Devils Lake,” Dorgan said. “But I have always insisted, I am not interested in transferring the problems from one region of our state to another.”

He said the state government’s proposal to release the Devils Lake waters into North Dakota river basins could have consequences for other communities, and he wants to hear what the state is trying to do and learn from local officials and residents about the concerns they might have.

“We’re going to try and sort through that, so I understand what’s happening,” he said.

Dorgan routinely conducts conference calls with North Dakota radio reporters every one to two weeks when Congress is in session, but hasn’t held one since he addressed the state’s media in the same fashion after announcing Jan. 5 he would not seek re-election in November.

The Senate was not in session from Jan. 6-18.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541

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