It’s been a couple of very good months for the Fargo-Moorhead diversion project. The North Dakota Legislature appropriated sufficient funding for Fargo flood control projects, and signaled that state support for the diversion was solid. The U.S. Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act, which includes authorization for permanent flood control in the Red River Valley, which includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-favored diversion.
Anyone who does not recognize the importance of the state and the federal milestones has his head stuck in Red River mud. As has been the pattern since the diversion was selected as the best option for permanent urban/suburban flood control, the project has met every engineering requirement and cleared every political hurdle.
Progress has been steady despite a furious effort by project opponents to derail the diversion. The drive by an upstream coalition of landowners and others to scuttle the state appropriation seemed to gain support from legislators early in the 2013 session. But that initial dustup over funding restrictions generated a rapid and unprecedented mobilization of Fargo interests, including the business community. In the end, legislation that passed was just about what diversion sponsors wanted. The project did not skip a beat.
In Congress, specifically in the U.S. Senate, the federal water act included diversion authorization. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., played a key role in moving the bill through committee and on to a final vote. Also working hard for the water act were Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Al Franken, D-Minn., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Again, the project did not skip a beat.
Next step for the federal bill is the U.S. House, where the onus falls on Reps. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Collin Peterson, D-Minn., to convince their colleagues to pass the authorization, and then proceed to the funding phase.
The project is sound. It’s needed. Thus far, positive developments in Bismarck and Washington suggest informed lawmakers agree.