U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota wants to spend $1 billion on water storage projects in the Red River valley.
Peterson, a DFLer who represents the state's 7th Congressional District, chairs the House Agriculture Committee. He says he plans to use the 2012 Farm Bill to direct $500 million to the Red River Valley over 10 years. State and local governments would need to match the federal money.
Peterson says he also wants to speed up those water projects by changing the planning process.
"The first thing they do is talk to the DNR, then they talk to the Fish and Wildlife Service. That's backwards," said Peterson. "The way this needs to be done is you go talk to the landowners first, get out there and work with them get them to understand what you're doing and see the benefits. I think we can work through this."
Peterson says storing water behind dams or in wetlands and lakes is critical for flood control, and will also improve water quality across the Red River Valley.
The USDA oversees a variety of conservation programs through its Natural Resources Conservation Service. The head of the NRCS, Dave White, says the money Peterson is requesting could flow through existing federal programs.
"We're not talking about some grand, huge, one megaproject. We're talking about dozens, perhaps hundreds of projects in thousands of locations throughout the watershed," he said.
White says his agency will develop an inventory of potential water storage sites in the Red River Valley.