North Dakota U.S. Sen. Kent Conrad held a budget committee field hearing Wednesday in Fargo on a proposed flood diversion project.
Conrad took testimony from local officials about the need for a long-term flood control project. He said there must be local commitments to pay for part of the $1.7 billion project.
Conrad said North Dakota has agreed to pay it's share and that it's time for Minnesota to step up.
"They're going to have to have a proportionate share of this that is roughly in relationship to the benefits they derive," Conrad said. "That's only fair. And that's roughly $200 million. We need to send that signal very clearly. "
Conrad said it will be more difficult to get federal funding for the diversion project if state and local officials aren't willing to pay their share of the cost.
Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said the local economy has taken a hit during floods the past three years. But Voxland said without permanent flood protection, at some point, flood waters will cause serious damage.
"We have been tremendously successful," Voxland said. "But when do we lose a neighborhood? That hurts. When do we lose part of a whole community? That's going to be incredibly painful not only to us but regionally and to our national economy.
Conrad estimates a catastrophic flood in Fargo-Moorhead would cause about $6 billion in damage. Local officials say the cost of fighting floods and trying to fund a flood diversion is stretching resources.
Next year, Fargo plans to ask voters to extend a one-half cent sales tax to help pay for flood costs.