FARGO – A 16 percent budget cut President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in fiscal year 2018 bears watching for its potential effect on the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion, North Dakota’s U.S. senators say.
In a video released by her office, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said she’s “really concerned” about how the cuts will affect water projects like the diversion and flood control in Minot. “That means that we will fall further and further behind.”
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., was more sanguine in his assessment. As a member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Committee, he’ll work to provide the corps with funding for construction as he did during President Barack Obama’s administration, Hoeven told The Forum.
“Whatever the president puts out, that’s the starting point,” he said. “It’s going to change a lot.”
Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., told Rob Port Wednesday, March 22, on his show on WDAY radio that he doesn’t believe there’s any risk to the diversion project any more than under Obama. He said Trump’s proposed corps budget is actually bigger than Obama’s proposed corps budget.
Both senators and a Fargo-Moorhead delegation met Tuesday, March 21, with White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. As director of the Office of Management and Budget, he oversees the administration’s funding priorities.
Hoeven and Heitkamp said they stressed the importance of federal funding for the $2.2 billion diversion to protect Fargo-Moorhead from Red River flooding. Only about a fifth of that cost is expected to be paid by the corps, with the rest coming from state and local governments in North Dakota.
“Director Mulvaney was engaged as leaders from Fargo and Moorhead joined us in reinforcing the importance of these flood protections,” Heitkamp said in a statement. “He seemed impressed by the level of non-federal investment the region and state have committed to the project – which I’m also proud of.”
“It was important to travel to Washington and meet with the new personnel in the Trump Administration about the F-M Diversion Project, which will save the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars through its innovative delivery model and the prevention of flooding emergencies,” said Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney, who also chairs the Diversion Authority, in a news release.
Hoeven said the 16 percent cut is just an overall number. He said the administration hasn’t yet released details of where it expects to make cuts, so it’s not clear if project construction would take a hit.
The senators said they also met with Shaun Donovan, Obama’s budget director, to impress upon him the importance of flood control for Fargo-Moorhead.
In other news, the Trump administration has proposed cutting $190 million in funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to update flood-plain maps, which the Consumer Federation of America has said could increase the cost of flood insurance or encourage construction in high-risk areas. Maps are used to determine insurance rates based on how much risk there is to a property.
The Trump administration said it wants to find other ways to pay for map updates.
Hoeven said he’ll keep an eye on funding for flood-plain maps because it’s important to both build flood control projects and have flood plains remapped to reflect the benefits of those projects so property owners aren’t required to pay more than they should.