ND, MN leaders pledge cooperation on flood protection

Wet neighborhood
North Dakota and Minnesota leaders hope to build consensus Tuesday on ways to develop permanent flood protection in the Red River basin and throughout the region.
MPR Photo/Tom Robertson

North Dakota and Minnesota officials are pledging to work together to develop permanent flood protection in the Red River Basin.

Congressional leaders from the two states, along with North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, are meeting with members of the Army Corps of Engineers and local leaders to discuss flood control in the region.

Col. Jon Christensen of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says protecting the region will take cooperation -- something he witnessed as the communities fought back floodwaters.

The Fargo-Moorhead area, which has a flood stage of 18 feet, survived two crests of the Red River, the first at a record 40.82 feet, the second at 34 feet.

"This latest flood has changed things," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. "(Fargo and Moorhead) successfully fought back the flood waters this year, but it was at great cost and substantial effort, and I think both cities want to have improved flood control capabilities."

Lawmakers want to build a consensus with local leaders on how to promote the planning and construction of comprehensive projects to protect Fargo, Moorhead and other river communities. The meeting is aimed at developing a strategy before lawmakers seek federal funding for the flood control projects.

"Fargo did a heroic job this year," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. "But I think it's also clear that there has to be a more refined strategy and we've got to hear from the local leadership on what their vision is for flood control."

Dorgan, Conrad, Hoeven and Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., are joined by Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, Fargo Deputy Mayor Tim Mahoney and Cass County, N.D., Commissioner Robyn Sorum. Pawlenty is joined by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland and other local officials.

Fargo city leaders have said they want to hold a special election in June to vote on a half-cent sales tax that would help pay for the protection.

Hoeven and Pawlenty have urged the Army Corps of Engineers to finish a study of Red River flood protection earlier than December 2010.

The corps is expected to release a preliminary flood control proposal this month that looks at a diversion project for the Red River in combination with levees. The final cost could range from $800 million to $2 billion.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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