By: Erik Burgess
WASHINGTON – The Red River diversion project will receive about 60 percent more federal funding this fiscal year than originally expected, according to news releases from North Dakota Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, and Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
The proposed $1.8 billion F-M diversion was set to receive $4.5 million for fiscal year 2013, down from the $5 million originally proposed due to across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration.
Heitkamp said the project will now receive $7.4 million for this fiscal year.
“This year’s potentially record-high flood risk highlights the need for permanent flood protection for the Fargo-Moorhead community,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “I’ve pushed the administration to ensure the flood diversion project has the resources it needs to move forward, and this increased funding is good news for the families and businesses in the Fargo-Moorhead area.”
Hoeven met this week with Office of Management and Budget nominee Sylvia Burwell and Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul District Commander Col. Michael Price to press for the additional funding.
“With this year’s flood fight in full gear and the potential for significant flooding once again, we pressed the President, the Corps and the Administration’s nominee for OMB in no uncertain terms for permanent flood relief,” Hoeven said in the statement. “Area residents have mounted a flood fight in four of the past five years. It should be clear to everyone that homeowners and businesses in the Fargo-Moorhead area cannot afford to delay this very important project.”
Heitkamp said she has pushed for more funding for the diversion since President Obama announced last week that his 2014 budget proposal contained no federal funding for the diversion.
“Like most North Dakotans, I was disappointed when the President’s budget included no funding for the diversion project,” Heitkamp said in the release. “The morning the budget came out, I was on the phone with Administration officials to voice my displeasure and press them on the project’s importance.”
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said the extra funding will allow diversion officials to move forward with design and analysis aspects of the project.
“It’s good news, there’s no question about that,” he said. “It’s because of the diligence and so forth of our congressional people who are moving us forward.”
The diversion project has yet to be fully funded and authorized by Congress, but that authorization is included in the 2013 Water Resources Development Act. Federal funding for construction of the diversion could still be appropriated within that act, said Darrell Vanyo, chairman of the Diversion Authority.
North Dakota state senators voted 29-17 on Wednesday to amend the State Water Commission bill, which contains funding for Fargo flood control projects, so that no state dollars can be spent on a diversion until the project is authorized by and receives some funding from the federal government.
The state Senate changed course from an earlier vote this week approving an amendment stating the diversion project would need to receive full funding from the federal government before state dollars would be allocated.
“That’s not the way Congress has ever funded a project,” Walaker said.
Heitkamp said she believes this federal funding will send a “strong message” to state officials.
“As the city of Fargo and Cass County prepare for yet another flood, we are reminded how important it is to support long-term flood protection for the people of eastern North Dakota,” she said.