Senator gathers flood testimony in Fargo

Drivers on a flooded street
Drivers greeted each other as they made their way through a flooded street east of Harwood, N.D. Sunday, March 29, 2009.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan says local concensus is critical if Fargo-Moorhead is to get federal help for a flood control project. Residents on both sides of the Red River battled record flooding in March and April.

Dorgan is holding a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on flood control today in Fargo. Dorgan says reaching agreement will not be easy, but local residents want a solution to flooding.

"One potential result would be to do nothing. If there can be no agreement, that is a possible outcome. However, I don't think that will be the result," said Dorgan, "given what Fargo and Moorhead and many other parts of the valley faced this year. I think most people living in this area believe there needs to be some added measure of flood protection."

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said at the hearing the Red River united people to fight a record flood, and that same unity should be used to help reach agreement on a flood protection plan.

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"In order to get funding we're going to have to have some agreement in how we do this. I think that's very possible," said Klobuchar. "We faced such a close call, and we know we can't just let it happen again. We can't figure the sandbags will work forever and ever. we have to have a long-range plan."

The Army Corp of Engineers plans to have detailed cost estimates for various flood control projects by September.

The Corps has proposed a diversion channel, or a levee system. Corps of Engineers St. Paul District Commander Jon Christiansen testified that a diversion channel is unlikely to meet a federal cost-benefit ratio.

That means the only option that would qualify for federal funding would be a permanent levee system. The Corps will recommend a flood protection plan to Congress sometime next year.