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Klobuchar visits East Grand Forks, Red River Valley flooding spots

Sen. Amy Klobuchar admitted she was sort of enjoying the sunny, relatively worry-free clime in the flooded Red River Valley during a whistle-stop tour Sunday, compared with the contentious air on Capitol Hill as the House wrangled all day over th...

Amy Klobuchar
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, left, and East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss react to the noise that ice jams make as they float under the Sorlie Memorial Bridge on Sunday. Klobuchar spent the day visiting areas along the Red River Valley. Herald photo by Sarah Kolberg.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar admitted she was sort of enjoying the sunny, relatively worry-free clime in the flooded Red River Valley during a whistle-stop tour Sunday, compared with the contentious air on Capitol Hill as the House wrangled all day over the Senate's health care reform bill.

Klobuchar, D-Minn., stopped in Moorhead and Georgetown, Minn., before pulling into East Grand Forks to see a sort of anti-climatic flood.

"I told Amy we have nothing to show her," East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss said. "Just a good defense."

Klobuchar praised city officials for being prepared, telling City Council member Marc DeMers, "You guys are a model of how to do this right."

The $400 million flood control project built after the record 54.3-feet flood in 1997 meant that Sunday, despite one of the highest river levels ever, it was a casual Sunday stroll along the not-needed "invisible" floodwall to watch a river, that while high, seemed to be slowly receding ahead of forecasts.


The news in the Valley seemed all good, as the Red crested Sunday in Fargo-Moorhead nearly 4 feet below last year's record level and officials from both sides of the river there recently agreed in principle to work together on a Fargo-Moorhead diversion ditch on the west side of the river, Klobuchar said.

"I was in Moorhead today, and everyone was high-fiving each other," she said, contrasting that with atmosphere in Washington, as she talked to Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

"I called Collin from Moorhead to give him a report," Klobuchar said, joking that she had to exaggerate the direness of the flood fight here just to match Peterson's description of how rough things were Sunday in Washington.

It was a big change in Moorhead, too, from a year ago when a record flood level threatened the entire metro area and kept citizens on their toes for weeks, Klobuchar said.

According to Peterson's report Sunday, she had the better assignment, Klobuchar said, as the Capitol sounded like a not-fun place to be. Peterson was expected to be one of the few "nays" from the Democratic side on the House bills.

But Sunday in East Grand Forks, there was no pressure on Klobuchar, just friendly lobbying by the mayor and most of the council walking along the river.

Council member Henry Tweten emphasized to Klobuchar how big and how federal was the problem of flooding in the Red River Valley.

"This river drains all the way from Bemidji to the other side of Devils Lake," Tweten said, to illustrate the need for both states to work together to get federal funding for flood control.


And seeing is believing, Tweten said, describing how House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., lobbied for federal aid to East Grand Forks after seeing the flood first-hand in 1997.

"I literally have never seen the Red here when it was flooding, so it was good for me to come and see it," Klobuchar said.

Stauss took Klobuchar out on the Sorlie Bridge and both marveled at the structure's shudders and groans as ice floes and floating trees hit the steel beams regularly.

Klobuchar asked Stauss if there were any projects he wanted her to go to bat for in Washington.

The major mentioned proposed renovations to the police department, including making it more environmentally friendly and Klobuchar promised to do what she could.

Stauss asked first-termer Klobuchar about her family and adjusting to life inside the Beltway.

It's going great, especially for her daughter, Abigail, who is 14 and attending a public high school in Virginia, Klobuchar said.

The senator's popularity with fellow Democrats nationwide is growing. In part, that's because she is widely considered maybe funnier than her Minnesota colleague, Sen. Al Franken, who some see as running away from his former life as a comedian on "Saturday Night Live."


Saturday night, in fact, Klobuchar was live, a featured speaker at the Virginia Democratic party's annual dinner in Richmond and she took her daughter along.

The only problem was that her daughter had access to her computer to edit the speech, Klobuchar said, and she added the line, "Abigail Rocks!" at regular intervals throughout the speech.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com

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