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UPDATE: Hoeven, Berg press for presidential disaster declaration

Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Rick Berg are calling on federal officials to approve a presidential disaster declaration as the Red River Valley prepares for expected major floods.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Rick Berg are calling on federal officials to approve a presidential disaster declaration as the Red River Valley prepares for expected major floods.

Hoeven met with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate on Tuesday to discuss the declaration, and again pressed Fugate and the White House today to act quickly to assure residents that federal aid will be available when needed.

"The Red River has already passed flood stage, so it is critical that we have all the necessary federal resources in place to work with local and state responders," Hoeven said in a written statement.

Hoeven said today that a 26-member FEMA Incident Management Team will arrive in Fargo today, and FEMA officials have said federal resources are ready to go in the state pending a decision by the White House on the requested presidential disaster declaration.

The Coast Guard is already in North Dakota and other agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have personnel and equipment ready to be deployed.


Berg called on President Barack Obama to promptly approve the declaration, which was requested more than 40 days ago.

"This is not a political issue -- it's about people's homes and livelihoods," he said. "This declaration is vital to the Red River Valley and the administration's inaction on this issue is inexplicable and unacceptable."

Berg, Hoeven and Sen. Kent Conrad urged Obama in February to support an emergency declaration request from Gov. Jack Dalrymple as the state prepared for potentially major flooding.

In a written statement, Dalrymple said the declaration would make federal resources available and help cover local and tribal costs as communities prepare for spring flooding.

"We are continuing to press FEMA to issue the emergency declaration so that all necessary federal assistance and resources are in place before the Red River crests," Dalrymple said.

Conrad: Corps will continue flood fight, even if government shuts down

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leaders said today that their flood preparation efforts in the Red River Valley will continue, even if the federal government shuts down over a budget stalemate.

The leaders briefed Sen. Kent Conrad on their work to prepare for expected major flooding.


In a written statement, Conrad said it's "unfortunate" that partisan politics about the budget could potentially shut down the U.S. government.

"There are real ramifications here -- much more than closed museums and delayed passports," he said. "Up and down the swelling Red River we are seeing firsthand the uncertainty of what a shutdown really means."

Conrad and Sen. John Hoeven plan to meet with community leaders in Fargo and Valley City on Friday to see flood preparation efforts. But Conrad said those community meetings may have to be postponed if negotiations about the budget keep the senators in Washington.

"While the federal government may shut down, the water will still continue to rise," he said. "I have been assured that the Corps will remain in the flood fight and help us prepare as best we can."

Johnson reports on local politics. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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